Nader, Bear Fat, Astroturf, and Childhood Obesity

Activist Ralph Nader is still fighting the good fight against the corporate bulldozers that figuratively plow consumers into the ground under tons of misleading media. He blames “the vast fast food and food processing industry and their clever advertisers” for “pouring massive amounts of empty calories into the mouths and down the throats of these children.”

Nader is critical of Michelle Obama’s efforts with school lunches, because she ought to know that kids shun vegetables even when they are quite hungry. There is also an unfavorable mention of the time when the President gave out M&Ms to children visiting the White House, just a few days before the First Lady hosted a multimedia event to announce her “Let’s Move” program. At the top of the page is the presidential candy, from when Childhood Obesity News mentioned it in another context. Yes, we have shown the picture before, but it is handsome.

Will bears save us?

Earlier this year, a researcher suggested that bears have some talents that should be investigated, such as the ability to store fat in a way that doesn’t result in diabetes or tissue inflammation. Maybe the two-thirds of American adults who are overweight could use this information.

In answer to this news, a rebuttal was issued by Alicia Bandy, who asks why we should bother to do bear research, when we already have the wonderful tools of — you guessed it — diet and exercise. Not that there is anything wrong with either an intelligent diet or a reasonable amount of exercise. Also, it’s very true that sometimes the answer is simpler than medical intervention. And who could object to these noble-sounding sentiments?

If you start from the ground up to build communities that allow people to exercise and eat healthy, we can tackle the root cause of obesity rather than spending billions of dollars to treat it…. Obesity prevention is about community organizations coming together to build healthier communities, involving the public in conversations about how to live a healthy life and giving people the tools they need to make those decisions on their own.

The words sound fine, but Ms. Bandy wrote them for a company called Solomon McCown, a firm that specializes in “integrated, strategic communications, public affairs and crisis management services.” In other words, they are damage-control experts who help corporations and institutions deal with bad news and adverse publicity. This article appears to be what activists call “astroturf,” pretending to advocate one side of a controversy while actually supporting the other.

Too much imagination?

It’s so subtle it’s almost invisible, but the rhetoric here throws responsibility for weight solely onto the consumer, whose job it is to “exercise and eat healthy.” If all the tubby, lazy consumers decline to eat vegetables along with their junk food, or refuse to exercise enough to work off the junk-food calories, it is not the food industry’s fault. Like crack dealers, food corporations are just filling a need. People want this stuff and are willing to pay for it. What could go wrong?

Big Food is totally on board with giving Americans the freedom to buy whatever horrible concoction of chemicals they wish, and to consume as much of it as they desire. As long as all the attention can be focused on the people who make use of those freedoms, eyeballs will not be looking at corporate malfeasance. That is, anyway, what they hope.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Ralph Nader: Fight against obesity should target food companies, not children’s eating habits,”, 02/22/10
Source: “Grizzly Bears are Not the Solution to Obesity,”, 02/13/14
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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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