Public Opinion is an interesting monolith here in America that tends to be driven by the profit margins of the biggest companies here in America. I came to this conclusion last night while innocently enough searching online about High Fructose Corn Syrup. In the past few years we have all been aware of the numerous studies on the dangers of highly processed food and its additives namely High Fructose Corn Syrup. Sugar is added to just about every processed food that you purchase in a can or package. Or should I say at least in the past it was sugar before food industries realized that it was much cheaper to use the sugar found in fruit, this so conveniently happened around the time Sugar was gaining a bad rep in the 70’s and manufacturers of corn syrup saw this time as ripe opportunity to capitalize on the reputation of so-called “natural products” and so began the love affair of corn syrup laden products. In the past 10 years there has been sufficient evidence to support that large amounts of sugar OR hfcs can and will cause death and/or disease. What is interesting is the change in Public opinion about sugar because during the 70’s Corn Syrup was actually regarded as a superior option at one point as Mother Jones mentions in the March 2011 article, “Is Sugar Really Healthier Than Corn Syrup?”
After years of flogging by nutritionists and foodies, HFCS has become, well, a four-letter word. This wasn’t always so. Back in the ’70s, table sugar (a.k.a. sucrose) was the bad guy. People associated it (rightly) with tooth decay and diabetes, whereas fructose, the predominant sugar in fruit, seemed a more natural option. Gary Taubes, author of the nutritional bestseller Good Calories, Bad Calories, explains that manufacturers of items like Snapple and sweetened yogurt didn’t want sugar in the first few ingredients, because it made their products appear unhealthy. So corn-syrup marketers capitalized on fructose’s good reputation, and by the ’80s, food and beverage manufacturers were switching to HFCS in droves.
You see how that happened? How quickly public opinion was swayed over time and eventually you were given a new opinion to believe in. I’ll use another example of how much of your opinion is determined for you before you even decided to have an opinion on the matter. I first heard of Gluten intolerance while off work many many years ago, I was at home watching The View when Elizabeth Hasselbeck did a segment on Gluten Free Foods for individuals suffering from Celiac Disease. I had never heard of the affliction which causes inflammation and eventual breakdown in the lining of the small intestine whenever any amount of dietary gluten is consumed. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Now a few years later Gluten Free is all the rage. I’ll admit that I caved into the belief that gluten-free was better for me and I even started buying the gluten-free bread, tortillas etc until I began to wonder if gluten-free was actually doing my body any good. Upon research I was surprised to learn that actual gluten intolerance affects merely 1% of the United States population and that there is no sufficient evidence from ANY study to prove that gluten is bad for the individuals that show no symptoms of Celiac Disease. However in the past five years the sales of products that cater to the gluten-free market have grown 28% and will soon be worth $2.6 billion annually. Do you see the pattern here? Public Opinion is manipulated for the financial gain of huge multi billion dollar industries. 17 million people in this country now believe in a matter of years that they are now allergic to dietary gluten. If our very opinions on what we should believe as far as food go are manipulated so easily than can you begin to imagine how our views are shaped on race relations, sex, politics and just about everything else that a profit can be made from? How can we protect ourselves in an era where our purchasing habits are being constantly being molded by external forces? In closing I’ll share some of the tips I’ve learned from others and other tips that I’ve gained thru maturity as a consumer.
- READ THE LABELS! Most marketers use sly words to hide in plain sight certain ingredients. In the case of a manufacturer attempting to make the consumer more comfortable with sugar, words such as cane sugar,fruit juice concentrate, fruit juice, caramel, barley malt, beet sugar will be substituted for sugar. ALL JUST PLAIN SUGAR!
- A lot of deceptive advertising is based is the manipulation of negative emotions such as fear to entice purchase. Most of products geared toward women are sold thru manipulating common insecurities. Just look at the diet food advertisements geared towards women for proof.
- When watching TV make it a practice of muting the commercials.
- Simply watch less tv.
- Be aware that ALL magazine ads use photo shop to deceptively make models, actresses and products much more attractive than they are naturally. Be aware paparazzi photos of celebrities are photo shopped as well. Even fashion bloggers manipulate their images. It is the creation of a beautiful false world.
- Advertisers tend to connect with their audience using comedy to deceptively associate their products with good feelings.
- Stay away from trends.
- Examine your reasons for all purchases, especially items that add no real value to your net worth. Items like shoes, clothing and cars. Are you purchasing to make others jealous? To be noticed? To keep up with the “in” crowd?
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