The Unhealthy Truth

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

In her book The Unhealthy Truth, Robyn O'Brien argues that deregulation of the American food industry has allowed major corporations to put inexpensive- but harmful- chemicals and additives into our food which adversely affect our health.


Robyn O'Brien

Comments [39]

Chuck from Columbus, OH

I found the topic interesting and really wanted to hear what she had to say. But I have to agree with Sharon and Rick. Her style was incredibly off-putting. I couldn't absorb any of it because everything she said was dripping with attitude and shop talk. Even when Leonard tried to get her to leave behind garbage-speak like "entrenched", she wouldn't let it go. Frankly, this woman needs some coaching before she addresses an audience who isn't already fully in her camp. This need to polarize people and to adopt militant attitudes (despite her unconvincing "I'm just a humble housewife" jargon) is what's wrong with the far left and right in politics and every other important human concern. We need to learn the gentle art of persuasion with each other...starting with basic human respect...assuming the best about the other party until they absolutely prove us wrong. Teeing off on other people accomplishes nothing except driving the extremists back into their camps (where never the twain shall meet) and causing moderates and independent thinkers to tune it all out.

Jul. 10 2009 04:13 AM
Nadia from Brooklyn, NY

I do believe the food industry in the US could be ALLOT better. I also suffer from severe food allergies. But this woman's viewpoints and tactics are so extreme she makes the natural food movement and allergy sufferers look like a bunch of paranoid, obsessive wackos with WAY to much time on their hands. An interesting article was published about Robyn O'Brien in the Times back in January. Read

Jul. 09 2009 01:11 AM
Rick from New Jersey

Several issues are easily overlooked when discussing these topics:
1) The dysmal rate of breast feeding infants in this country contribute greatly to inmmune system dysfunction in later life.
2) The "over-protection" of children in not allowing them to be exposed to normal food early in life also contributes to the development of allergies.
3) Finally, the statistics cited in the program indicating increased admissions to hospitals is deceiving. The fact that more patients get admitted DOES NOT mean they are sicker, rather, physicians are practicing more defensive medicine. It in no way indicates sicker patients.

Jul. 08 2009 03:00 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

anonyme, anyone who is tweeting while interviewing cannot be present for that interview.

while this was a worthwhile subject, robyn herself was asking listeners to question "expert findings"--those would include hers. science isn't only statistics-illustrated; there are methods of action and reactions between molecules that deserve some qualitative context. it isn't enough to say "soy is more dangerous than anyone can believe", for example--explaining how and why it is dangerous helps even the most pragmatic consider information they cannot initially digest.

Jul. 08 2009 02:44 PM
David in Brooklyn

@23, Hank Bernstein -
You may find this earlier interview of Robyn O'Brien a helpful supplement to what we've just heard.

Jul. 08 2009 02:28 PM
Alison from Glen Rock, NJ

I cannot express how grateful I am to have you cover this issue. This seems so obvious to me, yet for some reason no one, including Faan as far as I know, has gone up against the food industry. I'm curious much money have the consequences (research etc) of putting chemicals and foreign proteins into our food supply cost the US? If the initial goal was to provide cheap food to the masses, at what cost?

Jul. 08 2009 02:19 PM
Jane from Brooklyn

For those who doesn't know the dangers of soy:
I was on a vegan diet for a while. I ate lots of tofu, and other soy products couple of years ago.
During the same time my uterine fibroid grew by several inches, and the fibrocystic lumps in my breast also grew a lot. I certainly didn't connect the 2 until I had to have a breast biopsy, and and a great doctor connected the dots for me. I know a lot about nutrition, and I was under impression that soy was a healthy alternative to animal protein. I've changed my diet, and doing much better now.

Jul. 08 2009 02:05 PM

You chumps! complaining about Robyn's sincere efforts - and research, and book-writing and blogging - she was a nervous wreck about interviewing with Leonard! (look at her tweets) I sometimes can't stand the pissy attitude of some extremely smug listeners - what have you offered lately? How much of this valuable thinking and research have you done? This doesn't only go for today.

Jul. 08 2009 01:25 PM
Elizabeth Yamashita from Chester, NJ

Although I agree with some of the comments that the interviewee sounded very pat and rehearsed and seemingly unwilling to engage in a real conversation with Leonard Lopate (who is a master of the conversational interview) -- the premise of her book is hugely important.

We've just seen a vivid example of the insidiousness of additives in our 13-year old daughter, who flew into an uncontrollable rage after consuming a cupcake and Italian ice loaded, we now know, with Red Dye 40. Though we are a family that stays away from processed food whenever possible, and avoid sugar and white flour, we made an exception for a holiday party. And we've learned our lesson. Thanks for having this segment on the show.

Jul. 08 2009 12:56 PM
Ken from BK

or to get more funding for the school. She is pointing out that we must question every statistic and provides her sources. Many of the studies out there now do not offer the general public this information. And for those that she believe that she is being cagey, well she is trying to promote her book. She has to leave you with wanting to read more.

Jul. 08 2009 12:56 PM
Ken from BK

For Fred canavan: Your answer your lack of critical reasoning. Yes you should question school test and anything that can be maniplated in ways Robyn has pointed out. Just because 90 percent of the class passed the test does not mean that the chile actually learned something. You don't know what the test was testing, who may have changed the scores to please

Jul. 08 2009 12:53 PM
Ralph Cutler from Brooklyn

Thanks Leonard so much for doing this segment with Robyn. For such a wealthy nation, the way we educate about, grow, process, market and regulate our food, is to me one of the saddest aspects of our life. It is given so little attention in media and politics, yet is so intertwined with the massive environmental and health issues we are facing.

Jul. 08 2009 12:44 PM
Alicia from Manhattan

I was wondering if Robyn was firmiliar with with T.S. Campbell's book The China Study. In a 40 year study he has directly linked animal protein to diseases of affluence Aka cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. That of course includes Caesin
or milk protein. He was met by silmilar hostility with his findings and exposed quite a few corporate alliances with leading medical journals. Also, aren't most of our childrens neurological problems linked to the flouridation of our water supplies? I am enjoying this segment but would love to hear T.S. Campbell who is a scientist that grew up on a dairy farm which is a really interesting parallel.

Jul. 08 2009 12:40 PM
j from b'klyn

i also stopped eating bread, pasta and crackers on a regular basis [maybe a handful of times of a month, seriously] in order to lose some very stubborn weight, and the side effect i was not expecting was a DEcrease in lactose intolerance, so that's the main reason i've continued this dietary path.
my energy level is still the same, but i'm less hungry in general. it took about 2-3 weeks to shake the carb-induced type hunger pangs.

Jul. 08 2009 12:38 PM

Organic in France is called 'Bio' and is sold at the Bio Marche. Organic foods and Herbal type suppliments sold in Europe are typically 2 to 3 times higher from what the costs are here in the U.S. for the same product.

Jul. 08 2009 12:37 PM
Beth from Upper West Side, Manhattan

I agree with Sharon Mast from the Bronx. While your guest has clearly written a book about an important topic, her robotic reciting of statistics and continually attributing them to chapters in her book (repeating the title in excess) was very annoying to hear. And it distracted me from the core topic/information. She sounded incredibly rehearsed and pre-programed. Something she might consider if invited to participate in future interviews regarding her book (the title of which I will not cite, as she already did that ad nauseam.

Jul. 08 2009 12:37 PM
Hank Bernstein from New Jersey

What about infant formula! Have these proteins been added?

Jul. 08 2009 12:35 PM
Thomas Byrne from Stuyvesant Town

Right on!

Food should be labeled "FOOD"

Chemicals should be spelled out in readable type.

Jul. 08 2009 12:33 PM
grace from ny

What about the suplements aminoacids and minerals do these help in overcoming allergies-as thay claim

Jul. 08 2009 12:33 PM

My farmers only sell us eggs fed grass and bugs, no grain. My eggs cost more but the yolks are deep yellow-orange.

Jul. 08 2009 12:33 PM
paul from nyc

i ate eggs all my life
now they make me sick
unless i buy the $ premium brands

[also Soy is said to be bad for male development
at least in dogs]

Jul. 08 2009 12:33 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

anonyme, monsanto had a hold on the reagan administration, as did j.d. searle, who are responsible for the approval and uptake of aspartame (and other pharmacological products)

Jul. 08 2009 12:32 PM

Didn't the Clintons kind of hand the FDA over to Monsanto people?

Jul. 08 2009 12:29 PM
Hugh from Brookyn

Robyn O'Brien's point about there being to product lines -- one for US consumers and the other for everyone else is

1. Also true in China (that is, two product lines) and

2. Also true of non-food products. Bisphenol A (BpA), popular in American plastics, is banned outright in Europe. American lobbyists tried to change that and got their chains yanked in Europe.

But here in the US, Monsanto, ADM, etc etc, are championed of models of American innovation.

What a sad commentary on the United States.

Jul. 08 2009 12:28 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

my (highly regarded) doctors scoffed when i refused to treat my lupus symptoms by making definitive dietary changes (no white flour, sugar, wheat, dairy, animal protein) in favor of whole/non-packaged foods, and supplementing with an enzyme and comprehensive Omega-3s, instead of taking medication. my blood work has consistently revealed that these changes have changed my status, as well as eliminated symptomology. they simply nod, knowing they could never have provided me with this more palatable approach to treatment. question everything, people.

Jul. 08 2009 12:27 PM
marion appel from NYC (Chinatown)

During the public-comment period hearings held by the FDA in 1999 re labeling requirements of genetically modified ingredients in food, Dr. Rebecca Goldburg of Environmental Defense raised the exact issue of allergies: that reactions may occur in response to proteins that it would be hard to identify, let alone track. (i.e. not the egg, but the gmo corn eaten by the chicken...)

Also of note, RbGH was regulated, but as a veterinary drug -- not a food. As such, the FDA required testing, but also only that results be provided by the manufacturer... Subsequent reporting in NATURE in '90 or '91 revealed that Monsanto's own scientists had seen evidence of elevated levels of IGF-1 (the growth hormone cited by your guest), that didn't make it into the reports provided to the FDA.

Jul. 08 2009 12:26 PM
j from b'klyn

i read in Redbook magazine back in 1990, that there are several crossover proteins between the shell on shellfish, and nuts, that are considered important in diagnosing food allergies.
Also a food allergy can aggravate previous chronic conditions [asthma along with eczema as mentioned, for one that I'm aware of], not just bring them out after ingestion, and I've seen this happen several times in adults.
Lays Corporation uses genetically modified sunflower products in their line. Any info on sunflower allergies or other genetically modified proteins influencing allergies?

Jul. 08 2009 12:26 PM

also, rise in c-sections have lead to horrible gut biology... allergies, food absorption, processing toxins, etc

Jul. 08 2009 12:25 PM
Fred canavan from Glen rock, NJ

Guest claims to have ability to take conclusions from study data based on her "numbers" experience in business. Her point on study funding indicates her lack of critical thinking. Food companies usually pass third party studies because they prepare for exactly that test, just as most children pass exams in class. Should we scrutinize a school test because most students pass them?


Jul. 08 2009 12:25 PM
Ellen from CT

I was wondering how you feel about the connection between breast feeding and allergies.

Jul. 08 2009 12:25 PM
Ben from Manhattan

I'm pleasantly surprised to hear someone finally comment publicly on the soy problem. There's a lot of misinformation regarding soy, and myths that are accepted too readily; while it's definitely nutritious, it has a really big dark side (phytic acid) that deserves much more research and discussion.

Jul. 08 2009 12:23 PM
Rick from Manhattan

I can appreciate and agree with Robyn's views on food and nutrition issues in the US. However, I find that her discussion style is just as deceiving and misleading as her foes. Her use of statistics are meaningless to me without much more context and understanding of the human toll.

Jul. 08 2009 12:23 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

the guest never quite explained what the danger of soy is, apart from who might be growing it, and how it might be treated.

Jul. 08 2009 12:22 PM

please mention too, that the incredible decline of breastfeeding in this country has gotten us all off to a horrible start... bad food only makes it worse. thanks.

Jul. 08 2009 12:22 PM
Stephen from manhattan

Dr. David Cooper, a professor of endocrinology at Johns Hopkins medical school who specializes in thyroid disease, said that thyroid patients should should stay away from soy milk. “If you’re hypothyroid and you’re taking thyroid medication, you do not want to be taking soy. It will block your body’s ability to absorb the medication.”
Todd B. Nippoldt, M.D., at the Mayo Clinic, says, "Hypothyroidism is generally treated with synthetic thyroid hormone — and soy has long been thought to interfere with the body's ability to absorb the medication. However, there's no evidence that people who have hypothyroidism should avoid soy completely.
Generally, it's best to wait four hours after taking thyroid medication to consume any products that contain soy. The same guidelines apply to other products that may impair the body's ability to absorb thyroid medication, including high-fiber foods, iron and calcium supplements, and antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium"

Jul. 08 2009 12:21 PM
Sharon Mast from Bronx, NY

How frustrating it must be to interview someone who READS statistics to you over the air, rather than engaging in informed (but not read/memorized/rehearsed) conversation. It certainly is frustrating as a listener!

Jul. 08 2009 12:21 PM

Sally Fallon has written extensively about this in her two cookbooks, eat Fat Lose Fat and Nourishing Traditions. You can make the market work for you by buying from a farmer you know - who tells you how he grows and processes teh food he sells you. In NYC we have buying clubs to achieve this end, and farmer's markets. It's not as easy as going to the supermarket but it is definitely worth the effort! I stunned my doctors by completely reversing bone loss without meds - just bought dairy from farmers I know.

Jul. 08 2009 12:16 PM
phyllis from nyc

1. Not surprised. Market reigns supreme, Hooray!!
2. FOUR children? Gotta be kidding me.

Jul. 08 2009 12:13 PM
Hugh from Brookyn

To connect back to a segment in the Brian Lehrer Show:

American companies sent forth their lobbyists to Europe to try to block European plans to require labeling of food as Genetically Modified. The Clinton and Bush administrations (and I would guess the Obama company now) also threatened action if Europe required labeling (the threat was of unfair interfence in trade).

European officials quickly angered. The vile lobbyists got the shock of their lives when informed they were likely breaking European laws.

Jul. 08 2009 12:13 PM

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