"People die at different rates because of a complex nexus of interlocking social and political issues including work life, employment status, social stability, family support, housing, smoking, drugs, and possibly diet, although the evidence on that, frankly, is pretty thin, and you certainly wouldn’t start there.
But we do, because it’s such a delicious fantasy, because it’s commodifiable and pushed by expert PR agencies, and in some respects this is one of the most destructive features of the whole nutritionist project... Food has become a distraction from the real causes of ill health, and also, in some respects, a manifesto of rightwing individualism. You are what you eat, and people die young because they deserve it. You hear it from people as they walk past the local council estate and point at a mother feeding her child crisps: “Well, when you look at what they feed them,” they say, “it’s got to be diet, hasn’t it?” They choose death, through ignorance and laziness, but you choose life, fresh fish, olive oil, and that’s why you’re healthy. You’re going to see 80. You deserve it. Not like them.
Genuine public-health interventions to address the social and lifestyle causes of disease are far less lucrative, and far less of a spectacle, than anything a lifestyle magazine editor or television commissioner would dare to touch. What prime-time TV show looks at food deserts created by giant supermarket chains, the very companies with which the stellar media nutritionists so often have their lucrative commercial contracts? What glossy magazine focuses on how social inequality drives health inequality? Where’s the human interest in prohibiting the promotion of bad foods, facilitating access to healthier foods by means of taxation, or maintaining a clear labelling system?
...We love this stuff. It isn’t done to us, we invite it, and we buy it, because we want to live in a simple universe of rules with justice, easy answers and predictable consequences. We want pills to solve complex social problems like school performance. We want berries to stop us from dying and to delineate the difference between us and the lumpen peasants around us. We want nice simple stories that make sense of the world.nd if you make us think about anything else more complicated, we will open our mouths, let out a bubble or two, and float off - bored and entirely unphased - to huddle at the other end of our shiny little fishbowl eating goji berries.
Excerpt from Ben Goldacre's book: Bad Science (which is based on his Guardian column).