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New research confirms tobacco companies contributed to addiction to junk food

  • 2 Min To Read
  • 7 months ago

New research from the University of Kansas suggests that tobacco companies may have played a role in the decline of Americans' health by promoting addictive, fatty, salty, and sweet foods. The study found that food producers owned by tobacco companies, such as Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds, developed a disproportionately high number of what scientists call "hyper-palatable" foods between 1988 and 2001. These foods were designed to create an artificially rewarding eating experience by being packed with sugar, caffeine, fat, sodium, and carbs.

The study revealed that foods produced by tobacco-owned companies were 29% more likely to be classified as hyper-palatable due to fat and sodium content, and 80% more likely to be ultrahigh in carbohydrates and sodium compared to foods produced by other companies. While tobacco companies largely divested from the food system in the early 2000s, their influence remains as these hyper-palatable foods continue to be staples of the American diet, leading to higher rates of obesity and related health problems.

Food producers that were once owned by tobacco companies include Kraft-General Foods and Nabisco, which produced popular brands like Oreo, Ritz, Miracle Whip, and Oscar Meyer. The study's lead author, Tera Fazzino, highlights that these foods may be designed to make people eat more than they planned, tricking their bodies into consuming more than desired.

It is worth noting that despite the growing evidence of the harm caused by these foods, there are no federal regulations in the United States regarding hyper-palatable foods. Furthermore, the U.S. does not restrict certain ingredients that have been banned in other countries due to their negative health consequences. The prevalence of obesity in American adults has sharply risen since the 1980s, and organizations like the World Health Organization attribute this to factors such as the disappearance of fresh foods, corporate control of the food chain, and increased production of processed foods.

Overall, this research suggests that tobacco companies may have contributed to the decline in Americans' health by promoting addictive foods. The study's findings highlight the need for regulations and a greater emphasis on nutrition to address the obesity epidemic in the United States.

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