The Corporate Food Industry Has Created a Diet That Is Literally Killing Us

Thom Hartmann: In the best of the rest of the news, "you are what you eat". A phrase we've all heard from a friend, a parent, or maybe even a teacher. Sounds like a myth but it's actually true and it could save your life. Every year tens of millions of Americans die from health problems that are totally preventable. These health problems are totally preventable because they all have the same root cause: the animal-based diet that is being forced down our throat by the food industry, big ag and the politicians they own.

So how do we break free from a diet that is literally killing us? How can we change our lives simply by changing what we eat? These questions of the subject of a fascinating new documentary titled "Eating You Alive". Here's a clip from the trailer. [various speakers]

"What is on our plate is really affecting our environment. We have been putting the wrong fuel in our bodies. Americans, Europeans have been poisoned by these animal foods. You can see what the person is eating by looking at the plaque in their arteries. See the plaque right there? We're literally bypassing the problem. Without some serious lifestyle changes, this guy will be back. Foods are the cause of diabetes, of heart disease and many forms of cancer, of hypertension and if they're the cause, they can also be the solution."

Thom Hartmann: Joining me now to talk more about "Eating You Alive" are two of the people behind the film: producer and director Paul David Kennamer Jr. and producer Merrilee Jacobs. David, Merrilee welcome.

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Thank you.

Merrilee Jacobs: Thank you.

Thom Hartmann: And thanks for joining us from our Los Angeles studio. Paul, first of all, what was the inspiration for this film? What made you want to tell this story?

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: For me it was, we got approached by a doctor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and he had a health foods plant-based lifestyle seminar that he gives every month and so he approached us about doing promotional assets, or providing promotional assets, for that. We own a production company there and so we thought we're just going to throw ourselves into this lifestyle ourselves and just kind of see the results that we get, to see what it did for us. And so ultimately I went back to my high school weight , 45 pounds I lost within six weeks of being on the lifestyle, lost my rotator cuff issues I was having, I had tendinitis in both elbows and so I began to believe, wow, this is amazing. And so the whole team actually did this together and we all saw the same results and decided this is a story that we need to tell.

Thom Hartmann: Wow, and this was just essentially a plant-based diet, is that right, Paul, basically a vegan diet?

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Absolutely, wholefoods, plant-based diet with no oils, no added oils and no added sugars, no fats.

Thom Hartmann: Interesting.

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Other than just naturally comes from plants.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Merrilee, what are the major revelations in this film? What do you expose about the food industry and the diet that most Americans eat and perhaps any dimension of how it came to be this way, the politics around it.

Merrilee Jacobs: You know, I think as we did our research and as we talked to the doctors and other people, researchers and other people that we interviewed for the film, it became readily apparent that first of all convenience kind of drove us to, you know, what we eat now and the foods that we choose to eat. Not only that, but how the food industry actually plays on our natural desire for sugar, fat and salt and formulates those things into foods, packaged foods that create an addiction in us.

So I think there you have the food industry as it plays into using our own, you know, natural desires against us in that way. And then you have the food industry that recognizes there's a lot of profit to be made so of course they go in and they create new foods that have these addictive qualities.

You couple that with certain foods that are subsidized, obvious lobbying going to the government, the government subsidizes things like sugar, feed crops that go to feed all of the animal agriculture and those foods that come from that.

And then you have this the pharmaceutical companies now that are developing chronic disease drugs to kind of try and treat the diseases that are being caused by the foods we eat. And it's kind of there's so many fingers into, you know, this pie, it makes it really difficult for the average citizen to kind of wade their way through the propaganda

And I think that was the biggest revelation is that we really are and have been duped by a lot of the advertising and the propaganda put out there and even things such as so-called studies, you know, scientific studies that have actually been supported and funded by a lot of these industries so they're a little, you know, perverted in that way

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, just a little, it seems! Paul, is the American diet the way it is because of the power we've given big ag or is this a cultural thing? How did we get here?

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Well, I think that's hard to necessarily pin down. I think if you took it and you looked at it like a crime scene and you were trying to kind of investigate it for fingerprints and that sort of thing, I'm not sure where you would actually find exactly where it started because there's so many guilty parties involved. But I do think that we, I do think we eat this way from habit. But again, as Merrilee said, with the subsidies, you know, going to the different industries that only promote us to be sick, it's, there's no way around. That's the reason we've fallen into these habits because of the subsidies, it makes it cheap for us to eat that way, and so therefore we do that.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, I used, a friend of mine has passed on now who was a physician, he used to say we make a lot of money feeding people in ways to make them sick and then we make a lot of money getting them better again.

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Absolutely.

Thom Hartmann: It seems like a very dysfunctional system. Merrilee, tell us about some of the people you've interviewed for this film. How have their lives been improved by this plant-based diet?

Merrilee Jacobs: You know, it's been the most rewarding thing to take somebody and track their journey and there are several stories within where we actually got to track them from beginning to where they are now currently in their journey and it's amazing. We watched a gentleman we worked with for 17 days and the doctor was monitoring and he was type 2 diabetic for 30 years and, you know, we kind of laid out of a pattern of eating, a meal plan for three weeks and so we kind of followed him through this. And it was amazing that his fasting blood sugars on three different kinds of diabetic medication at the highest dosage levels dropped. And his medication had to be reduced to a quarter of what he was taking before and his fasting blood sugars on medication had been 191 down to a quarter of the medication they were at 91 in 17 days and two weeks after that his fasting blood sugars were down to 88 - no medication.

We saw the same thing happen within 20 days for someone who's dealing with high cholesterol. Cholesterol numbers over 300 on no medication and in like 20 days they were at 143, no, I'm sorry, 176 on no medication. So amazing, amazing differences. And we experienced all that ourselves as well. Our families now have adopted the lifestyle, so many of them, and we've watched dramatic changes just on so many levels and with so many different chronic diseases being reversed. It's a story and information that we just felt compelled to share.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, and this goes beyond what we used to refer to as a vegetarian diet which includes eggs and dairy products.

Merrilee Jacobs: Yes.

Thom Hartmann: You're excluding eggs and dairy products and, you know, basically all animal products from this diet. Paul, if living longer and healthier lives is as simple as eating more plants and eating fewer animal products, and I'm curious, is there a, is it possible to eat a little bit of animal products and not, still, you know, and still get a good result? But in any case, if it's really that simple as Merrilee just described, why hasn't the medical community promoted the idea? Is this an issue of corporate capture by big ag or just ignorance? And what kind of impact does industry have on the medical community?

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: I think that's exactly it. I think that the pharmaceutical companies basically pay for medical school so therefore that's what you learn about, you learn about pills and procedures. If everyone just went home and drank water and ate their vegetables, that wouldn't make anybody a whole lot of money in that industry so therefore they're not taught that. They're not taught about nutrition very much in medical schools. We interviewed about 70 physicians across the country. They all had that one thing in common. They learned almost nothing about nutrition in medical school.

Thom Hartmann: Wow.

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: So that's, it was fascinating.

Thom Hartmann: That's like a mechanic not knowing the difference between, you know, tetraethyl lead gasoline and normal gasoline. I mean, this is actually this is our fuel. OK, Merrilee...

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: That's exactly the truth.

Thom Hartmann: I'm sorry, go ahead.

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: No, no, I was just going to say, one of the doctors said that when we're born our bodies are this supercharged engine and then from the time we come into this world where basically we, from the time we get weaned from our mother's breast milk, immediately we go onto cow's milk which then just continues to break down the system, breaks down the body, and eventually we die with an old clunker.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, there you go. Merrilee, do you see any policy solutions to the issues that you talk about the film? Is this something that can be fixed by personal choices and personal discipline or is there a role for government to play in this? And, you know, presumably pushing back against industry, it seems like they're the ones in control right now.

Merrilee Jacobs: I think to a large degree, although I would say that I think throughout history we've seen that any revolution that is a sustainable revolution comes from the ground. It comes from the common people demanding change. And I don't think anything is going to be different in this scenario either. And I think we're really starting to see a ground swell not just from the health perspective but from an environmental perspective as well. I think the ethical vegan movement with regards to animal agriculture and compassionate animals kind of feeds into that as well, so it's like a three-pronged fork if you will.

And all of these different groups I think are coming together and we tried to do that in the film too, present all of the benefits of a whole-food plant-based lifestyle to address all of these concerns. And I think as this movement continues to grow, then industry will have to change, supply and demand, you know, we're going to be demanding these changes in our food and restaurants and grocery stores.

And so industry is going to have to come along and accommodate those demands. And I think eventually, you know, when we're dealing with things like our debt load and our healthcare costs that just continue to rise, then government's going to be needing to take a look at those things and go, okay where's the solution?

And this is the most obvious, most economical solution to all of these things and I think that's going to just become more and more apparent and as the science is just continuing to stack up as well. And the biggest evidence is just people just try it. If you just try it, I think you experience such dramatic results even within as little as 30 days, it's going to become readily apparent that there is a whole lot to this and we're going to see that happen.

Thom Hartmann: Great. Paul, Merrilee, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

Merrilee Jacobs: No, Thank you very much. It was great.

Paul David Kennamer Jr.: Thank you. Thank you.

Thom Hartmann: Eating You Alive premieres this Friday December second in West Hollywood Sundance cinema in Los Angeles. For more information and dates on other screenings check out


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