Let Thy Medicine Be Thy Food

Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
Hippocrates

As I have gone down the rabbit hole of food freedom and the “real” food debate, I have come to realize I have opened Pandora’s box.

I started out just being outraged by the heavy handed prosecutions of small farmers selling whole foods, but the more I delve into the topic of food in the U.S., the more I see how deeply corporations are intertwined with governing bodies, and how the two come together to form an unholy alliance in relation to our diets.

The FDA specifically says foods cannot be marketed to have positive health effects, otherwise, they are considered a drug, and therefore fall under a whole different set of regulations and oversights. Sounds good, in theory, right? I absolutely want our drugs to be safe.

But what if you are talking about a distributer of nuts who claims their walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (which they are) and how omega-3 fatty acids are good for you? Does that count as marketing a “drug”? The FDA says absolutely. The link is to a warning letter sent to Diamond Food from the FDA. In pertinent part, it says:

The following are examples of the claims made on your firm’s website under the heading of a web page stating “OMEGA-3s … Every time you munch a few walnuts, you’re doing your body a big favor.”:
• “Studies indicate that the omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts may help lower cholesterol; protect against heart disease, stroke and some cancers; ease arthritis and other inflammatory diseases; and even fight depression and other mental illnesses.”
• “[O]mega-3 fatty acids inhibit the tumor growth that is promoted by the acids found in other fats … ”
• “[I]n treating major depression, for example, omega-3s seem to work by making it easier for brain cell receptors to process mood-related signals from neighboring neurons.”
• “The omega-3s found in fish oil are thought to be responsible for the significantly lower incidence of breast cancer in Japanese women as compared to women in the United States.”

Because of these intended uses, your walnut products are drugs within the meaning of section 201 (g)(1)(B) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(B)]. Your walnut products are also new drugs under section 201(p) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(p)] because they are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced conditions. Therefore, under section 505(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 355(a)], they may not be legally marketed with the above claims in the United States without an approved new drug application.

(emphasis mine)

Seriously? Walnuts are drugs? Would any sane person argue that eating a whole food rich in nutrients, protein, and fatty acids is the same thing as ingesting a drug? The FDA says yes.

I was set off this morning by a Yahoo Shine article that discussed “food label red flags” and the very first “red flag” was any food advertising itself as a “drug” and their target food was the humble Cheerio. The article says to watch out for foods that make health claims:
“Are Cheerios a substitute for cholesterol-lowering drugs? The FDA doesn’t think so. Foods are not authorized to treat diseases. Be suspicious of any food label that claims to be the next wonder drug.” (emphasis mine)
Cheerios are heavily processed and full of enrichments and preservatives, so I am not going out of my way to defend them specifically, but I am emphasizing the focus on the FDA not “authorizing” food to treat diseases.

Maybe if people were eating more whole grain cereals for breakfast than sausage biscuits from McDonalds, fewer people would need an “authorized” drug like Lipitor.

So the FDA’s stance is that foods cannot be marketed to make any sort of health claims. So would someone please explain to me how a cereal such as Cocoa Crispies CAN advertise itself to say “Now helps support your child’s IMMUNITY” as the box shown on the link does?
(Foods marketed directly to children and parents is a WHOLE post of its own.)

So the question you have to ask is who benefits from these regulations? Really, the short answer is pharmaceutical companies. It would seem that the FDA would rather you go to your doctor and get on a statin drug to lower your cholesterol than try and eat a diet with whole grains and natural fiber.

Studies are frequently coming out that suggest our brains are what is making us fat. Here is the latest such study I have seen.
He said larger studies are needed to confirm the findings, but the study does suggest that obese people may be less able to shut off parts of the brain that drive food cravings. That probably contributes to their obesity.
It all sounds very straightforward, from the article, but the sample group was all of 14 people and there is no consideration given to how the foods that contribute to our obesity epidemic affect hormones and brain function.

If being obese is all about our cerebral cortex, then the answer must be to take more brain altering drugs, right? Who wins again?

The culture of the United States is the exact opposite of the quote from Hippocrates that I began this post with. We have programmed our minds to chose to take medicine to undo the damage we do to ourselves with our diet.

If we were choosing better foods, maybe we would not be forced to keep reaching for those amber-colored bottles. However, then the many-billions of dollars pharmaceutical industry might see its profit margins decrease, and no one wants to see that, least of all the FDA.

How do you trust an agency like the FDA that forbids a company from marketing walnuts as a healthy food but allows Cocoa Crispies to say it boosts a child’s immunities?

I don’t personally think you can, which is why I encourage you to go read about food, read about where it comes from, what is going into it, why we eat what we do, and more than anything else, read between the lines of ANYTHING you see advertised about food, both good and bad.

And I want to end with a modern quote about food:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Michael Pollan

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