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Cascades and Your Health

We’ve all heard that fats are bad. They have been to blame for big name ailments since the late 70s, and its no wonder why now when we think of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, fats are the first things that come to mind. As a consequence, the idea that lack of fat is good has taken over the food industry. Since the USDA advised us to limit our fat and cholesterol intake in 1980, snacks have become less “fatty” and more “carb-y.” We all look for the “low fat” or “fat free” label thinking that this dish will keep us slim. Well it turns out we all were wrong. Recent studies found that fat does not in fact have direct links to these diseases, or (surprisingly) to obesity. Now it seems that carbs have been the sneaky culprit all along! In order to be really healthy, and to avoid heart disease and obesity, the best plan of action is to eat everything (fats and carbs included) in moderation. Yet there is one troubling problem: how do we get society to do this?

If we think about these health trends as a cascade it becomes pretty clear what happened. As the word spread that fats were the problem, more and more people chose to eat things that were low in fats (although high in carbs) like breads, pasta, fruit, and skim milk. The more people changed their diets, the easier it became ¬†for others to do the same because they could justify their choice by the sheer volume of others that were doing the same. The people who followed the crowd were doing so because they thought people in the crowd had “information” or were benefiting from their low fat diet.

Now that the so called “war on fat” is over, how long will it take for the population to start accepting fats as okay to eat again? We can expect a cascade in the opposite direction eventually, but now there is another force keeping the population stuck in their eating habits. The food industry has not picked up the fat is good slogan just yet, and their payoff is high when advocating for low fat foods because of the public’s low opinion on fats. This network effect will keep the population eating carbs longer, and delay the cascade back to balanced eating.

In fact it can be said that perpetuating that fat is bad is good for the food industry. There is a huge benefit the more people are loyal to a product. Therefore it is in the food industry’s best interest to keep their consumers believing that a Special K bar is a good breakfast to eat, regardless of its high carb to fat ratio. It is now a fight between the consumers awareness for their own health and the power of advertisement.


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November 2014