Junkfood Science: Helping in ways that matter

April 01, 2007

Helping in ways that matter

Dr. Sydney Smith at Medpundit pointed out an especially intense marketing piece from an affiliate of the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) that appeared in today’s paper.

It sadly used the very real tragedies faced by two parents of young children and their fight against cancer to promote a political agenda. Cancer victims hardly benefit from being blamed as contributing to their cancers by having done something ‘wrong’, especially when there is absolutely no evidence for such claims. As readers here will recognize, the assertions that eating right — i.e. abundant fruits and vegetables — can prevent cancer have not been supported by any credible evidence on people.

The article, “Cancer patients' bravery not echoed in bold policy,” opened with using the cancers of several high-profile people in the news to call for politicians to “earmark serious new money for the woefully underfunded 5-A-Day Program, which promotes consumption of cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables.”

That “woefully underfunded program” was recently reviewed here and found to be receiving abundant industry, nonprofit and private funding, as well as a 2000% increase in government funding since 1999. And its 15-year track record is one of complete failure.

In support of the importance of these moneys, the author cited the Harvard study which, she said, found red meat doubles the risk for hormone-receptor positive breast cancers.

Taking a careful look at the study, we learned it showed nothing of the sort.

She also said that red meat increases the risk for colon cancer. Far too many people, she wrote, “don’t realize the crucial role that healthy diets can play in cancer prevention and survival.”

What we’ve learned of the role of diet in cancer prevention is that convincing evidence remains, to say the least, elusive to scientists.

How much more should lawmakers give to the 5-A-Day program, according to today’s writer? There is so much money spent on marketing “unhealthy food,” she noted, that Americans are still not getting the message of the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and most are not eating the recommended servings. So, “lawmakers should at least .... [pump] a billion dollars into new education efforts in support of healthy dietary patterns... if lawmakers need a shot of courage, they can simply look to Snow and Edwards for inspiration.”

Coincidentally, we read about that 'lack of healthy eating marketing' here and even our observation shows it to be quite pervasive.

By now, readers may be wondering why this author might be writing so vehemently against meat and overstating the evidence for produce and “healthy eating.” She identifies herself as a senior nutritionist with The Cancer Project, a program of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The interests in the 5-A-Day Program are surprisingly diverse, even an animal rights organization! For readers unfamiliar with this organization, Dr. William Jarvis, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine at Loma Linda University of Medicine, member of the California attorney general’s task force on health fraud and on the Board of Directors of the National Council Against Health Fraud, reviewed it here.

Dr. Smith opined that: “I have yet to meet the cancer that has been cured or prevented by ‘eating healthy.’ While it’s certainly true that starving people have more difficulty fighting disease, we clearly do not live in a nation of starving people. And while it’s certainly a worthy goal to encourage the sick and dying to eat well, it isn't a project that’s worthy of our tax dollars, especially if funding it will take away from something more important — such as infrastructure or Medicaid funding.”

Our thoughts and support go out to these two cancer victims and all of our friends and loved ones facing similar challenges. What will most help them is our resources going towards real cancer cures and treatments, not special interests and bad science.

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