What if I told you that all of the corruption, deception, and fraud you may think is going on in the food industry is actually true?
I recently sat down with my dear friend Calley Means to discuss the injustices in the food system and his viral tweet that perfectly illustrates this.
The tweet—viewed by over 12 million people—called out Coca-Cola’s playbook to keep soda in federal food stamp funding. They did this by donating millions of dollars to the NAACP and other civil rights groups to paint opposers of the soda tax bill as racist.
How does Calley know this to be true? Because he literally “saw inside the room” and watched it all unfold. As a research analyst for the Heritage Foundation, Calley saw how Big Soda used large-scale organizations to weaponize institutions of trust and help push its agenda.
After his experience, Calley completely changed his perspective about the underlying and deeply connected agenda of Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Pharma. He is now an entrepreneur working to educate the public about their dirty tactics so people can feel equipped to make better food and lifestyle choices.
My conversation with Calley dug deep into the corruption that exists within the food industry, how the system is inherently rigged, and why health is a bipartisan issue that calls for reform on both sides of the aisle.
If you didn’t get a chance to hear the controversial interview, or if you want a couple of mind-blowing facts to share with your friends, I’m giving you the three biggest takeaways from our conversation together.
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#1: Corruption Has Broken the System beyond Belief
The United States spends twice as much on healthcare than countries of equal socioeconomic influence. Our “pill for every ill” solution isn’t working, and it costs billions in taxpayer dollars for nominal impact. Calley believes the government is being incentivized to keep us sick, and it’s difficult to argue when looking at the data.
Seventy-five percent of both the FDA’s funding and the media’s funding comes from Big Pharma companies. For that amount of dough, it’s hard to believe there are no strings attached. And based on the evidence, there seems to be a transactional relationship going on.
When the FDA gives the green light to prescribe anti-obesity drugs to kids instead of making nutrition education and healthier foods more accessible, it’s easy to read between the lines. In the eyes of Big Pharma, the market is there: childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past three decades, and the pandemic has only made matters worse.
To further push its agenda, Big Pharma pays the media beaucoup bucks to fill prime-time ad slots with drug promotions and devote hour-long news segments to reinforcing dangerous and disempowering propaganda.
Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, appointed to the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, recently claimed that “the number one cause of obesity is genetics” on 60 Minutes. Not only is this a flat-out lie that’s been disproven by decades of research, but Dr. Cody also receives payments from weight-loss drug manufacturers. 🤯 It’s hard to think that financial ties like this don’t cloud judgment.
#2: Treating Illness Is Incentivized over Creating Health
The average US medical student receives less than 20 hours of nutrition training, and despite the massive existential health crisis happening in our country, this number has actually decreased over the past several years.
A healthy diet is foundational for preventing chronic disease. So why aren’t future healthcare practitioners being educated on how to help their patients achieve balanced nutrition? Calley says pharmaceutical companies funnel billions of dollars into medical institutions to keep drugs and surgery as their primary modes of treatment.
And it’s not just Big Pharma that’s targeting universities’ curriculum and research. Big Food and Big Soda are also mega-funders of nutrition research studies, resulting in a four-to-eightfold greater chance of the results favoring the sponsor’s financial interests. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Last year I had Dr. John Abramson, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, on the podcast to discuss the nefarious and corrupt exchanges between Big Pharma, academia, and esteemed research journal publications.
Dr. Abramson wrote about this in his book, Sickening: How Big Pharma Broke American Health Care and How We Can Repair It. I covered the top three most mind-blowing takeaways from our conversation together here.
With all this in mind, moving toward more altruistic solutions like making nutrition education and healthy food accessible for all seems like a pipe dream. But it’s not impossible; our incentives are just in the wrong place. Why? Because right now, it’s more profitable to keep people sick than to create a healthy and thriving population.
#3 Fixing the System Is a Bipartisan Issue
So many people are quick to dismiss the system’s corruption as a right or left issue. The left-leaning solution is to ban these corporations altogether. The right believes in the freedom of having a free market and leaving it up to the people to decide.
But as Calley and I discuss in our conversation, these corporations can exist, but only if people are fully equipped with the knowledge of how these foods impact their health and risk for chronic disease. Only then do they have the freedom to make informed food choices.
Politics aside, we can all agree that to be a happy and productive society we first need to be healthy. That is a universal truth, no matter what side of the aisle people are on. Nutrition education and dietary guidelines that prioritize (and incentivize) eating healthy, whole foods over cheap, ultra-processed food is foundational to that.
We’ve Come a Long Way, but There’s Still a Long Way to Go
It’s easy to think we’re riding a one-way train toward sickness, corruption, and economic turmoil. But the truth is, when looking at health as a whole, we’ve actually come a long way.
Food insecurity is down. Life expectancy is up. All in all, we are generally headed in the right direction. But when it comes to the food system, dietary guidelines, and healthcare system genuinely looking out for the health of Americans, we’ve lost our way.
As Calley says in our interview, we’ve taken something as simple as health and made it overly complicated. Our ancestors never had to deal with obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or heart, liver, and kidney disease the way we do, but they also didn’t get 60 percent of their calories from processed foods. They ate whole foods—no frills, no fancy or expensive ingredients, just real food.
These chronic diseases are symptoms of underlying metabolic dysfunction rooted in a corrupt, profit-driven system. And the truth is when money is at stake, corners are cut, politicians are corrupted, and decisions are made based on where the money moves.
It may seem like a helpless road ahead, but there is reason to be hopeful. Thought leaders like Calley and my business partner, Dr. Mark Hyman, are fighting for food policy and healthcare reform from the ground up.
If you want to learn more about Dr. Hyman’s mission to fix America’s broken food system, you can check out his book, Food Fix, or his campaign at foodfix.org.
Calley is making podcasts and talk-show appearances to raise awareness of this important issue, the most pressing of our time. I recommend subscribing to his daily newsletter to stay updated on his mission.
Calley is also the founder of TrueMed, a company that’s helping make healthy food, supplements, and exercise equipment available for purchase with HSA and FSA dollars. I’m an investor in TrueMed because I believe in its mission to make living a healthy lifestyle easier and more accessible for everyone.
Here’s to your health,