By Justin Chao
The latest issue of the Atlantic featured an article called “How Junk Food Can End Obesity.” The author, David Freedman, believes that making processed food healthier will be a key factor in our fight against the obesity epidemic. Freedman argues that, with technology, we can produce processed food that will be both appealing and healthy. New advances in food technology by companies, such as TIC Gums and Fona International, have shown promise in making nutritious, healthy versions of food that mimic the flavor of the fatty and salty foods that people crave. For example, adding vanilla aroma to foods can make reductions of sugar in foods up to 25% undetectable to consumers. In addition, fast food chains such as McDonald’s have already begun cutting back on the fat, salt and calories in their products—as much as 10% in the last couple of years. “Fast food became popular because it’s tasty and convenient and cheap. It makes a lot more sense to look for small, beneficial changes than it does to hold out for big changes in what people eat that have no realistic chance of happening,” says Jamy Ard, a researcher at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Authors such as Michael Pollan, have argued that the cure for the obesity epidemic is to encourage people to eat natural or unprocessed, food. Freedman, however, argues that Michael Pollan does not understand the reality of convincing people to change their eating habits. Many lower income people live in food deserts where healthy foods are often not available. With busy schedules, it becomes unrealistic to expect lower income people to have the time to be able to travel to markets where healthy food is sold. In addition, many obesity experts say that it is unrealistic to expect that people will make radical changes in their diets and start eating “broccoli instead of French fries”.
What do you think is a more effective way of fighting the obesity epidemic: encouraging people to change their diets or making processed food healthier? Join the conversation on our Instagram and Facebook for more weekly updates, news, and food science!