How the fast food industry could solve America's obesity epidemic

Junk food
In this file photo, junk food sits on a table March 6, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Can junk food really end obesity? That's what journalist David H. Freedman claims in his recent cover story in The Atlantic. Pushing back against foodies like Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan, who claim that eating "fresh, unprocessed, local, seasonal, real food" is the only way to solve our obesity epidemic, Freedman says that processed foods can play an important role in the food revolution that our country needs:

Through its growing sway over health-conscious consumers and policy makers, the wholesome-food movement is impeding the progress of the one segment of the food world that is actually positioned to take effective, near-term steps to reverse the obesity trend: the processed-food industry. Popular food producers, fast-food chains among them, are already applying various tricks and technologies to create less caloric and more satiating versions of their junky fare that nonetheless retain much of the appeal of the originals, and could be induced to go much further. In fact, these roundly demonized companies could do far more for the public's health in five years than the wholesome-food movement is likely to accomplish in the next 50.

Tom Philpott wrote a response for Mother Jones to Freedman's piece, claiming "the fact remains that highly processed diets have a history of ruining people's health, and 'real food' diets have the opposite track record."

"After reading the piece, I realized that Freedman is really pining for an old, mostly discarded food trend: the 'low-fat' craze that flourished starting 30 or so years ago," Philpott wrote. "Forget for a second that the low-fat-everything moment occurred right during the time frame--the 1980s and '90s--when US obesity rates were surging. The problem here is that there's no real evidence that consuming fat, per se, causes obesity or related health problems."

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