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It Makes You Think…

(ACNEM Journal, Vol. 26 No. 2, August 2007)

True Lies

What can we believe of what we are told? How do we judge the truth?

In Victoria, the law says that a producer of orange juice may add cane sugar to the packaged juice and proudly write on the container: “100% pure orange juice. No added sugar”. This is to make up for any amount by which a batch of oranges may fall short of containing a specific amount of natural sugars.

It is fair enough to add sugar to orange juice to ensure a minimum level of sweetness. But why lie about it? And why enact a law which makes that lie acceptable?

What else are we told lies about because the law allows it?

We may consider the case of orange juice inconsequential. But what leads supposedly sane people to pass laws in this country to classify Aborigines under flora and fauna? Yes, they did!

Then there are the lies we tell all the time without thinking, because these lies are entrenched in the language. One of the most insidious, and ultimately one of the most dangerous, is the term ‘junk food’. It is an oxymoron. The items it refers to are not food; they are at best a confection and at worst a poison.

‘Food’ should be reserved to describe those things which nourish us and maintain or improve our health. ‘Food’ should not be used to refer to things which diminish or challenge our health. Thus, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, fresh fish and meat, whole-grain bread and unadulterated water are clearly foods. They give us what we need for health – the nutrients our bodies need for growth, maintenance and repair. Some processing, such as cooking, would not change their status as food.

Take a nourishing, whole grain and strip out all the fibre and nutrients and make the remaining starch into bread and you no longer have food – you have a confection. Consuming this confection requires nutrients for metabolism without giving the body anything valuable in return.

We tell a lie when we call this ‘food’.

When we buy a meal from a fast-food provider, we are not buying ‘junk food’, we are buying junk or confection. To continue to use the words ‘junk’ and ‘food’ together, lends the legitimacy of the latter to the former.

While this meal may contain some things our body needs, on balance its ingestion may demand more from us than it gives.

We are told lies about the meaning of ‘natural’. We believe that because something is natural it is good for us, and advertisers work on reinforcing this belief.

Cyanide is natural, as are foxgloves and oleanders and uranium and sugar cane. All but the last of these is poisonous.

Sugar cane juice is a highly nutritious (natural) food. It happens to contain minerals and vitamins which the body needs to metabolise the sugars it contains. Unfortunately, what we are sold as the manufactured product of this natural food source is a highly refined sugar with, usually, no nutrient value. Again, metabolising it requires us to supply nutrients. ‘Raw sugar’ is not raw – it is white sugar with some colour (and sometimes flavour) added.

‘Corn flour’ often isn’t. It is usually highly refined and finely milled wheat starch. It may tell you this on the packaging, but why should the producer be allowed to call it ‘corn’ flour at all?

We are sold things with labels such as “vitamin enriched” or “nutritionally enhanced”. What we are buying is something which has been stripped of its nutrients and has then had a fraction of these nutrients added back in. Why? Because in doing so the producer/manufacturer makes a bigger profit and can make the product sound more desirable.

We are told that tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids – vital to our health. We conscientiously buy tinned tuna which does not indicate on the packaging that much of the oil has been squeezed out, to be put into gel capsules and sold separately for a fortune (around $170 to $250 per kilo).

We are told daily that cow’s milk consumption is important for its calcium content. What we are not told is that the calcium contained in cow’s milk cannot readily be used by the human body and that there are much better sources of calcium – a glass of carrot juice contains much more calcium than a glass of milk. And it has been published in the medical literature that the higher the per capita consumption of cow’s milk in a country, the higher the incidence of osteoporosis. Work it out.

And then there are the political lies: boat people throwing their children overboard; our freedoms being increasingly curtailed, supposedly to protect our rights and freedoms from terrorists; protecting the earth from our polluting activities will harm the economy. And it goes on and on.

These lies we are told and the ones we tell ourselves are the greatest threat to our health, wellbeing and sanity and to the cohesion of our society. How much is the truth worth? Does any value still lie in the truth?

First published in Journal of Australasian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine,
Vol 26 No 2, August 2007, p 20