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If you’re not a spiritual person, then simply take the following post and replace every instance of the word SOUL with INTEGRITY. That works even if you are a spiritual person, by the way.

What’s a soul cost these days? I suppose it depends who you ask. Do we all have a price?

Easily in my all-time top ten Simpsons episodes is the Seventh Season, Fourth Episode: Bart Sells His Soul.

Not only does this episode begin with a church organist passing out after a pranked rendition of In The Garden of Eden (think Iron Butterfly), the whole premise is great. Bart doesn’t believe he has a soul, so he sells it to Milhouse for the tidy sum of $5. Hilarity ensues.

So what is the going price for three dimensional beings with (typically) all five fingers?

See, the problem with getting truth in food policy and advice, is that the deck is stacked in favor of processed food. That’s what is subsidized, that’s what makes money, that’s what has advertising budgets. No one spends millions to push kale. So even the “healthy alternatives” that we hear about through the “free market” (I’ll rant on that myth another time) are just another corporate product.

My main man Vinnie T, America’s Angriest Trainer, talks about the problem with funding natural food advocate podcasts. There is no money in it, so no one who is capable of sponsorship is interested. And if they were, the host would be expected to sell out and promote a lie. He says that he wouldn’t take a million dollars from Gatorade to sponsor the podcast. But everyone has a price, so he’d take 1.5 million. (He is kidding of course.) He goes on to say, and here I think he’s somewhat serious, is that he wouldn’t hesitate to take sponsorship dollars from tobacco or booze. Why? They’re upfront about what they are. Gatorade is not. As an aside, PepsiCo did respond to public pressure to stop using bromated vegetable oil. But what’s left is still a bad idea.

Since I don’t want to fall into the trap of expecting people to be as stupid as Madison Avenue thinks we are, I will try to refrain from assigning all blame to advertising, but there is certainly a difference in the way adults process information, and the way developing children do the same. Our kids are immersed in a world where billion dollar interests have a goal of establishing early brand loyalty in them now. Pull it back. Talk to them when they’re exposed to it. One of my favorite lessons in the Girls on the Run curriculum centers around teaching the girls to deconstruct and analyze the point of view and messages in fashion magazine advertisements. I think we should all do the same with our kids and tv food ads.

Back to the soul-selling.

I am simultaneously outraged/frustrated, but also somewhat hopeful  when I see something like this:

Coke Executive Answers Questions About Sugary Drinks

By my conditioning as a heterosexual American male, I am supposed to trust anything the pretty smiling lady says.

On one hand, I can’t believe how bald-faced the lies are. But on the other hand, this is such a great example of lunacy, that I have hope that most people are capable of seeing it that way, whether they are full-time nutrition obsessors or not. This article could not have been written any better if it were satire by The Onion. This is so beyond ridiculous, it’s almost impossible to spoof. It’s a parody of itself. You know, like Ted Nugent.

Even so, I am left wondering how many people read that and say “yup, moderation in all things, a calorie is a calories, blah blah blah.” I wish they asked a question about whether the inventors of coke from over 100 years ago could have imagined a day when instead of a rare 8oz bottle, the average consumer would replace water with this product. There’s your interview question. Here’s a piece on how sodas grew over the years. Yes, it’s from Mother Jones: deal with it. I don’t see Rush Limbaugh doing this research, so I go to whoever is actually looking. Try to ignore the one weird tip belly fat advertisement at the top.

To be fair, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t exactly help the cause by imposing a legal ban. That just turns people off and creates a reactionary self-destruction just to prove how independent of big bad government we are. I just wish the same small government people would wake up to how we as taxpayers are paying the sugar industry to poison us.

OK, so we know that the Coca Cola executive is not exactly the standard bearer for objective health advice. My old friend Marco reminded me of this film.  Getting mad at a coke executive is certainly low hanging fruit, or in this case, low hanging phosphoric acid and high-fructose corn syrup. Good thing it’s low too, most of us would break the ladder climbing up any higher.

Even so, coke is hardly alone in investing in propaganda. Recent analysis shows that Big Food is becoming the same as Big Tobacco when it comes to tactics. Fresh article right here.

Of course, we should get our health advice from a better source. Let’s say…. The American Heart Association.

It is February, and unlike every self-proclaimed awareness month, this one has the endorsement of the CDC. Your local news channel probably has a daily tip for heart health.

Plenty has been written by far more researched and erudite sources than me, about the problems with the AHA guidelines. It’s maddening. And think on this: heart disease is the number one killer of American women. Who is more likely to follow the fat-phobic carb based dietary recommendations of the AHA? In my anecdotal observation, it is more followed by women than men.

If I’ve lost you here, and you think I’m in some bacon cult, then catch up with these books: The Great Cholesterol Myth, or if you’re cheap, there is a kindle 99 cent title that is similar. Or if you’re really cheap but have Netflix, watch Fathead. If you don’t want to watch a movie, just check out one list of research articles that the AHA doesn’t want you know about. Or, better yet, read my podcast review post from two days ago, pick any one of those, and get educated. Join me. Come to the dark side.

But if you’re still so skeptical you won’t believe that the AHA is a hot mess, then I ask you to think about this one reality for a minute.

The American Heart Association endorsed Cocoa Puffs as a heart healthy food.

That’s right. Cocoa Puffs.

Whole Grain means health!!!

And Cookie Crisp. And all sorts of similar products. They finally got the message that maybe this wasn’t the best for their PR, and trimmed the list to 17 cereals in 2010. Most of them were still sugar bombs, though the names were less blatant. The AHA is in a tough spot. To admit they have followed flawed data for this long is not easy. But now they’re a bit like Rihanna staying loyal to Chris Brown. To change course is to risk public embarrassment and admit you made a mistake.

In spite of decades of research showing that dietary saturated fat does not harm your heart, but a sugar and GRAIN based diet absolutely does, the AHA still takes big money from big companies to endorse their processed products. Ready for a slide show? These are a few examples of products that paid enough to get certified as AHA approved. The new branding is the Heart Check Mark.

Oh sure, they have guidelines, but there’s a reason that fresh fruits and vegetables without major agri-business labels, or any generic products don’t have stickers with these products. It’s all about the money. And there is plenty of great stuff on the approved list, like whole almonds (the right brand of course). But I take issue with that last line up there. Always Respected.  You can trust us, we’re the American Heart Association. But we’re hanging on to outdated, dangerous dogma, afraid to admit a mistake.

All of the following food products currently bear the AHA seal of approval.

Pancakes. Yup.

Microwave Popcorn. Just like grandma used to make.

What’s better than pancakes? MORE PANCAKES

Mini Bagels. Betcha can’t eat just one.

Instant Oatmeal with two kinds of Sugar right in the name.

Take home a big cart of “heart-healthy” diabetes. I didn’t even picture the fruit juices, because I know plenty of people still labor under the delusion that those sugar-spiking, insulin-provoking products with more glucose than a coca-cola are healthy because they come from fruit. Seriously, do some research.

Now you tell me: who has sold their soul? At least Bart got to buy his back. And honestly, Coke’s top executive is a hopeless cause by default.

But unfortunately, I don’t think the AHA has any plans to reverse course. Sure, stranger things have happened. I mean, the first papal retirement in 600 years is happening right now. But it may take just as long for the AHA to wake up. I don’t have that kind of time, and neither do my kids. So for now, an AHA endorsement on a food product will be treated the same as any health claim on packaging: a sign to stay away. It’s bizarro world out there in marketing land.

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Yes that is my thumb. No I did not buy them.

Need I say more?

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5 thoughts on “Bart Simpson, Coca-Cola and The American Heart Association

  1. I love this post. I preach this exactly to my parents almost all the time. They often just buy foods with packaging that says “low fat”, “whole grain”, and “heart healthy” – WITHOUT actually looking at what’s inside! Frustrating. I cannot preach too much though because I still am holding on to many of these products myself, but I don’t buy them because the packaging “tricks” me into doing so (at least). To me this points to the whole dumbing down of America – we just obey whatever big business tells us to obey and believe. Ridiculous! We need to start deciding for ourselves and educating ourselves as you are doing. Good for you in being so strict with yourself. You give me something to strive for.

  2. I remember when Coke printed a message on its fridge pack addressing the concern that it didn’t count as “hydration”. They provided some flimsy reasoning about Coke containing water so it, of course, counts as hydration. They were basically inferring that Coke = water. It was terrible and shameless and I still drink it. But it’s a treat not hydration.

  3. Pingback: Don’t Cry for the AHA. They Had This Coming | From Doughboy to Ironman

  4. Pingback: Kobayashi Maru Time: Not selling enough drugs? Change the Rules | From Doughboy to Ironman

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