UC San Francisco Professor and pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig is best known for taking on sugar and fructose. Dr. Lustig’s new book takes on a deeper topic: the distinction between pleasure and happiness.
“The Hacking of the American Mind” tells how corporate interests “hacked” our brains and conflated pleasure with happiness. Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” campaign is the most recent example. Can any amount of sugar make someone genuinely happy? Pleasure is a short-term feeling that leaves you wanting more; happiness is a long-term emotion that correlates with satisfaction, not want.
The industry’s bait and switch trick (promise happiness, deliver pleasure) helped it achieve a massive increase in sugar and processed carbohydrate consumption, and trillions in well-subsidized profits.
Of course, as with most corporate malfeasance, the federal government was complicit. First, it aimed to “maximize food production” at minimal cost through agricultural subsidies. Then it spread sugar-industry-penetrated nutritional guidelines. These guidelines denied the relationship between sugar and diabetes, and encouraged increased carbohydrate consumption (up to 60 percent of the total diet). Then the government partnered with the food and beverage industry to “prevent” chronic disease. All the while, more and more Americans developed Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and obesity. So now 1.9 million Americans are dying each year from preventable, lifestyle-related diseases. And almost no one seems to notice or care.
Instead, Democrats and Republicans are arguing over how to pay for the ~$2.9 trillion that treating the chronically diseased costs our country each year. The press calls it a debate over “health care.” It’s nothing of the sort. It’s a debate over economics, accounting, corporate vs. government control and the spoils of sickness. Yet the “health-care” debate does not address how to care for the health of American citizens in any meaningful fashion.
Dr. Robert Lustig explains the point further in this interview at 26:15:
Obamacare promised that we could put 32 million sick people onto the rolls, and that we would pay for it with preventative services. By being able to go to your doctor, you wouldn’t have to use the Emergency Room, which costs 50 times as much. And that’s how we would be able to pay for all these people. It turns out, that with Obamacare, emergency room visits went up, not down. And costs went so high that three of the major insurers opted out. And that was one of the reasons for the election of 2016, focusing on health care.
Here’s the problem: Obamacare did not address diet. But neither does Trumpcare, and neither does the current Senate and House bills that are trying to repeal and replace. The bottom line is, until we address the problem of diet, which will also of course address the question of pleasure and happiness at the same time, we will not see an improvement in our health care system anytime soon. This has to be front and center.
That will not happen as long as the food and beverage industry directs federal government food and chronic disease policy.