Have you really thought about what you’re eating?

I’ve been thinking a lot about food recently and it all started with a man I met over breakfast at a conference. “You should give up refined sugar,” he told me, and I had to bite my lip to stop myself from saying, “You should give up telling strangers what they should do!” I hate unsolicited advice. Who did he think he was? But I’m now eternally grateful to him…

I must admit I wasn’t happy when I found myself sitting next to him on the train home from the conference and he started going on about refined sugar again. “Have you any health problems?” he asked.

I thought about saying, “Mind your own business!” but I admitted to my migraines. “Google it,” he suggested, “look up migraines and refined sugar.”

I did. There were a few things on the internet that suggested a possible link with some explanations of the hormones involved. I delved deep into my memories of biology ‘A’ level and the explanations seemed plausible. I bought a book on it, written in the 1980s by an American biochemist. His arguments seemed reasonable. I gave up refined sugar and my migraines have significantly improved. I’m taking a lot less drugs as a result.

There’s been a spate of TV programmes on recently about food. I’m glued to Channel 4′s The Food Hospital. Every week, they get seemingly miraculous results with radical improvements in people’s health simply by changing their diets. The diets they recommend vary slightly from person to person and condition to condition but it more or less boils down to one thing: less processed foods, more natural foods like fruit and veg, oily fish and whole grains.

So why aren’t we all eating this stuff on a regular basis? Imagine if all processed foods were got rid of and our supermarkets only stocked the stuff that was good for us. Wouldn’t we all be healthier as a result?

Another programme, The Men Who Made Us Fat, made me realise why this isn’t happening. The reason is simple: money. The food industry makes billions of pounds every year from selling us foods that aren’t good for us and guess what – a proportion of their massive profits goes to our governments. “Until the NHS spends more money treating patients suffering from obesity-related conditions than the money it receives from the food industry,” said one expert interviewed on the programme, “Nothing is going to change.”

I hate to sound like I’m having a political rant (I am the least political person I know after all) but that TV series made me realise that both the food industry and the government are quite happy to sacrifice my health – and yours – for the sake of a few quid. For the sake of profit.

And how come my doctor didn’t suggest a change of diet to help my migraines? Why did I have to hear it from a random stranger on a train? I found a book that answered that question and the answer boiled down, yet again, to money.

Did you watch Call the Midwife? Well, its author Jennifer Worth suffered from horrendous eczema. Nothing helped. It was seriously bad eczema too – the sort that required hospitalisation as her skin was literally raw. She went on an exclusion diet and discovered that she was allergic to certain foods and when she gave them up, her eczema disappeared. Why, she asked the allergy specialist who was treating her, wasn’t allergy suggested by the consultant dermatologists she saw at the hospital?  Why was she only offered drugs as a solution to her problem? He told her that there isn’t much research into food allergies. The reason: the drugs companies that do medical research can’t make a profit if all you have to do to cure your illness is to stop eating a certain food. If they can sell you a drug though, they stand to make billions.

All this makes me resolved to do one thing: not to succumb to the adverts on the TV telling me about the latest food product that comes in a can or a packet or a box that might be good for me or delicious to eat. I am trying to eat foods that are as natural as possible. I daresay my decision will only make a microscopic dint in the profits of the food companies who are happy to sell us processed junk but I think I’ll be healthier and happier as a result.

Rant over. Thank you for reading!


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