Selling Sickness 2013

metaphors and mongering

Another new study  showing that organically raised food is NOT more healthy or nutritious has predictably caused a firestorm of objection. Marion Nestle, my favorite evidence-based food scientist, blogs about this brilliantly from New York.

The abuse of metaphor is a big part of disease-mongering, from “natural” to ”healthy” to “war on…”, as in “war on obesity.” It always involves medical naming and framing and, of course, prescribing and treating. What metaphor doesn’t always involve is a basis in valid evidence. I’m not opposed to getting my body out of my chair in response to Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” enthusiasm, but obsessing about a “normal” body mass index as we see in so much medicalized anti-fat publicity is something else. Metaphor subtly reorganizes thinking as it classifies and categorizes and in this case paves the way to a new era of surveillance and corporate-promoted “healthy diet foods.” This is not the road to better health.

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