Ep. 350 The Dark Side of Food and Pharma Revealed! with Calley Means

Your trusted source for nutrition, wellness, and mindset for thriving health.

I am delighted to have the honor of connecting with Calley Means today. Calley is the Founder of Truemed, a company that facilitates tax-free spending on food and exercise. He also co-authored a book with his sister, Casey Means, called Good Energy, to be released later this year. 

Calley graduated from Stanford and Harvard Business School. He was a consultant for food and pharmaceutical firms and now exposes their tactics to weaponize our trusted institutions.

In our conversation today, Calley and I examine the impact of drug utilization, including GLP 1s, on obese children and discuss the relevance of his background in food and pharmaceuticals and the problem of treating obesity as a disease. We dive into the role of food stamps and subsidies and look at ways we can help improve food quality in the United States and reduce the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, also addressing conflicts of interest between the NIH and universities, the effects of reduced subsidies and processed food consumption on families, and dopamine regulation. 

This conversation has been long-awaited, and as a dedicated fan of Calley’s work, I am thrilled to share it with you.

“We need to attack this chronic disease industrial complex that makes more money when we are sicker.”

– Calley Means


  • Calley highlights the conflicts of interest in obesity research and the ineffectiveness of the US healthcare system in addressing chronic obesity in children.
  • How the pharmaceutical industry prioritizes profit over health
  • Why the American health crisis is not only a medical problem but also a moral issue
  • The influence of processed food companies on nutritional research
  • The crucial need to address the root causes of chronic diseases
  • How the influence of pharmaceutical lobbyists corrupts Congress
  • The growing distrust in American institutions 
  • How nutrition research funding impacts US food guidelines
  • The challenges of raising children when processed foods get weaponized to hook people
  • Calley discusses his upcoming book, Good Energy, and explains how his company, Truemed, helps patients unlock tax-free spending on metabolically healthy items.

Connect with Cynthia Thurlow

Connect with Calley Means


Cynthia Thurlow: [00:00:02] Welcome to Everyday Wellness podcast. I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner, Cynthia Thurlow. This podcast is designed to educate, empower, and inspire you to achieve your health and wellness goals. My goal and intent is to provide you with the best content and conversations from leaders in the health and wellness industry each week and impact over a million lives.

[00:00:29] Today, I had the honor of connecting with Calley Means. He’s the founder of TrueMed, a company that enables tax free spending on food and exercise, and the co-author, with his sister Casey Means of Good Energy, which will be out later this year. He has been a consultant for food and pharma companies and is now exposing practices they use to weaponize our institutions of trust. He’s also a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Business School. 

[00:00:55] Today, we spoke at length about the impact of utilization of drugs, especially with obese children, including the GLP-1s, the relevancy of his background in food and pharmaceuticals, what’s wrong with treating obesity as a disease? The role of food stamps and subsidies, what we can do to help improve the quality of food in the United States, the reduction of the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, as well as conflicts of interest between the NIH and universities, a reduction in subsidies and processed food consumption, and the net impact on children and families and dopamine regulation. I know you will enjoy this conversation as much as I did recording it. It is one that has been a long time coming. I’ve been a huge fan of Calley’s work for a great deal of time. 

[00:01:51] Calley, it’s such a pleasure to have you today. I’ve really been a huge admirer of your work across social media and the power of your voice within this space. Welcome. 

Calley Means: [00:02:00] Thank you, Cynthia. It’s so great to be here. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:02:02] Absolutely. I would love to start the conversation with something that I find profoundly disturbing. I think most listeners are familiarized with what drugs encompass the GLP-1 agonists. But most disturbingly, we now have positioning from some of these pediatric organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, advocating for the utilization of GLP-1 drugs in children that are obese over the age of 12, and we don’t even know the long-term effects of these drugs in and of themselves. What are your thoughts on this? 

Calley Means: [00:02:33] Yeah. So, I think this goes to what I’m really trying to add to this conversation as a former consultant lobbyist for Pharma, and I think we all know the healthcare system is broken, but I think things like what’s happening with Ozempic really bring it in a really clear case study and lessons that we can extract to many other things. So, I think the first thing you have is this idea, the peer-reviewed research. We have that thrown in our face. You’re literally called now anti-science for saying that Ozempic is anything other than a wonder drug. But going back to my experience looking at that research, Novo Nordisk is the top funder of core foundational obesity research. Any obesity center is now funded by Novo Nordisk. They’ve made 420 individual payments, consulting payments, bribes to obesity doctors. 

[00:03:23] You can’t have an obesity conference with doctors speaking they don’t have a direct conflict of interest with drug makers. They’ve bought off the medical organizations. They’re one of the top individual contributors to the obesity associations, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Diabetes Association. They’re one of the five largest spenders on TV news ads in the country, and literally are paying the bills of the news, which is dictating how we’re thinking about this. So, you have this situation where you have all these influences that go into the research. That’s a 68-week trial. It’s a 68-week trial for a lifetime drug that is now being taken and pushed by doctors who are paid by Novo Nordisk on television stations, that our bills are being paid by Novo Nordisk to say that that 68-week trial is enough to substantiate a lifetime drug for 12-year-olds. This is a lifetime drug for 12-year-olds. 

[00:04:20] So just even if the drug was perfect, right now, there’s a clear question. Should this be the standard of care for any obese or overweight 12-year-old, which is 50% of them? That’s not even considering that there’s actually alarming effects of this drug. Not to mention that by the design of the own study, it didn’t take into account the difference between body fat weight and muscle weight, and there’s a dramatic decrease in muscle weight. So that’s what happens. We have a rigged system where the American Academy of Pediatrics has never made a statement to tell kids to stop drinking soda or stop eating ultra-processed food. They’re actually accepted money from ultra-processed food makers. But now, having being paid by Novo Nordisk’s it is an all-out full court press to get this drug jabbed in the arms of 12-year-olds. I’ll just say, “That this metabolic health crisis, of which obesity is just one branch of, is not because of an Ozempic deficiency. And that’s what the science is telling us to believe.”

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:05:19] Yeah, it’s unfortunate. As someone that is trained in traditional allopathic medicine, there is absolutely a place for emergencies and critical care issues. But we really do a lousy job of prevention and chronic disease management. And the lifestyle piece, for whatever reason, seems to be not part of the conversation. And yet there are many people in the health and wellness space or in the medical space that really want to treat obesity as a disease. They want to blame genetics. And yet I think it’s a huge problem given the duration of this metabolic health crisis. But also looking at cost of a non-sustainable system. I mean, this is not a system that is sustainable in terms of what we’re spending on healthcare GDP, the use of pharmaceutics. I think it’s a 400 billion dollar a year system just for diabetes management. 

Calley Means: [00:06:14] Right. So this is, I think, what I’ve unpacked, kind of going through an awakening on this issue. So, when I got into the game working for pharma, working for food companies, I genuinely believed that the US pharmaceutical industry and the US healthcare industry was the envy of the world. It’s American innovation. We’re the ones who produce the most drugs. And I think we’re really indoctrinated to think that. Even when politicians both sides of the aisle talk about reforming healthcare, it’s always, “Well, we have the best healthcare system, we just need to reform it on the margins.” It’s been a little bit of a painful awakening, and I think we all need to get there, which is we do not have the best health care system in the world. We talk about socialized medicine or this or that. We have worse than socialized– we have a kleptocracy I always mispronounce that. We have a situation that’s totally owned by special interests and is producing worse outcomes for each dollar that we spend. 

[00:07:06] So if you really look at it, and this is how I break it down. Right now, over 90% of costs go to chronic conditions. In 1960, that was about 0%. Actually, the birth control pill in 1960 was the first chronic condition pharmaceutical– The first pharmaceutical ever that you took for more than a couple of weeks. The first real medical treatment that was chronic, that was multiple steps. You didn’t have chronic pharmaceutical interventions for heart disease, diabetes, things like that. It was a lifestyle condition. That all changed and the system realized that you could monetize, that you could have recurring revenue not by solving the condition, but by drugging it for life. And there’s been an all-out push to not cure conditions, but to make them chronic. That’s why there’s this push to make obesity not something under control, not something you can reverse. Where you have Harvard research literally saying that it’s funded by Novo Nordisk and it’s saying, “Obesity is not based on what we eat or lifestyle. It’s a genetic brain condition that you have to manage for life.” But what we don’t realize, I don’t even think most doctors fully realize, is that–

[00:08:12] And I actually can’t find an exception. It’s actually, I believe every chronic condition that we’ve isolated and drugged has gone up as we spend more to drug it and treat it. The more statins that we prescribe, the more heart disease goes up, the more metformin we prescribe, the more diabetes goes up, the more SSRIs we prescribe, the more depression goes up, the more ACE inhibitors we prescribe, the more blood pressure gores up. You literally can just go down the list. You actually have J.P. Morgan. They just had their conference in San Francisco. They were doing cartwheels on stage, practically, about the excitement and opportunity with obesity. You actually look at the financial estimates estimating the market for Ozempic and obesity drugs. The bankers who are underwriting billions of dollars of investment actually assume obesity is going to go up as Ozempic is prescribed more. Why is that? It’s because that’s the case with every chronic disease treatment. The actual underlying condition actually goes up because we have a moral hazard. 

[00:09:07] The express message from Dr. Fatima Cody, Stanford at Harvard, the lead obesity doctor. The express message is, it doesn’t matter what you eat. That is not like they are literally saying obesity isn’t tied to food. It’s a drug issue. You think they’re going to tell patients who are mass prescribing this drug? You think those patients are immediately going to stop eating ultra-processed food and go exercise? Absolutely not. There’s no evidence of that. The message of astatine, the message of metformin, the message of Ozempic, is that this is your solution, this is your savior. The last thing I’ll say is, I also work for food companies and working for Coke, we funneled millions of dollars to the American Diabetes Association. Until 2018, the American and Diabetes Association, Dr. Rob Lustig has pointed this out, who is very involved with it. Their guidance, their standard of care was that if you took your diabetes medication, you did not have to change your diet. That was literally what they said until 2018. They said, “You can continue drinking your coke, you can continue drinking your inflammatory food, you can continue eating as much sugar as you want as long as you take your medication, not realizing, of course, that diabetes is one example of dysregulation, blood sugar dysregulation, metabolic dysregulation, and if you continue to plow ultra-processed, inflammatory, high sugar food into your body, there’s going to be other problems, which is why 80% of people with diabetes have at least three other comorbidities.”

[00:10:23] So it’s just like the Ozempic and the obesity and trying to segment that into an isolated condition that we can treat is just part of this playbook that’s been the most unmitigated disaster in American medical history. The amount of money, trillions of dollars a year that we spend on chronic conditions, as chronic conditions still go up is a total failure. And that’s really what I’m trying to push. We need to actually not have marginal tweaks to our healthcare system. We need to attack this chronic disease industrial complex that makes more money when we’re sicker. That’s the problem. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:10:58] Well, and it’s interesting, because I just interviewed Gary Taubes. He has a new book out on diabetes, and the governing prevailing philosophy, if you look at the history of diabetes management over the last 150 years, is that physicians got to a point where it was too uncomfortable– I’m using their words, too uncomfortable for their patients to adjust their diet. It was just easier to cover with more insulin. And that has been the panacea or the way over the last 50, 60 years. And in many ways, we’ve conditioned our patients to just take more medication, as opposed to the consideration that maybe what I’m dealing with in terms of nutrition, sleep, stress management, lack of exercise, etc., is contributing to my poor health. And it’s not a deficiency– per se, a deficiency in the medication. It is that, in fact, it’s a lifestyle-mediated problem that needs to be addressed comprehensively and not just with more medication. 

Calley Means: [00:11:55] You’ve hit on something that I think actually– we obviously have a health crisis, an economic crisis that’s happening with health. I actually think you’ve hit on a spiritual crisis, which is that we have so little faith in Americans to not kill themselves. My sister, who’s a big inspiration for me, Dr. Casey Means, when she started Stanford Med School, she said that the curriculum from day one is indoctrinating into doctors how the American patient is suicidal and trying to kill themselves, how you cannot rip the Coca-Cola from their hands, how you cannot rip the ultra-processed food from their hands, how you cannot rip the cigarettes from their hands. There’s an intense cynicism about the American people that’s indoctrinated into doctors, where you hear this very flippant thing from the kind of idea from the highest levels that Americans are going to be lazy. Well, why was obesity close to 0% just 50 years ago? We’ve all seen those pictures in the 1950s, 1960s where nobody is obese, and now it’s 80% of American adults are overweight, obese. How has diabetes gone up 8x in the past two generations? You can go down the list.

[00:13:00] Now, 40% of high schoolers have a mental health disorder. Why has all this happened all at once? Have Americans systematically become lazier and frankly, more suicidal? which is true. Life expectancy is going down for the most sustained period since 1860, well before COVID. There’s something like happening, and I’m a libertarian, free market guy. I used to work for republican candidates. I believe an individual choice. But when 80% of Americans all of a sudden have gotten overweight or obese, and I think, crucially, it’s happening to children, to infant’s metabolic dysfunction and obesity, it’s not personal choice that we have an absolute epidemic of metabolic conditions among children. I don’t think moms are trying to poison their kids, which is actually what’s happening at scale. We have a systemic problem. And that’s where I think the devil’s bargain, as I call it, comes in, where obviously that’s happening from a host of metabolic weapons of mass destruction that have been released on the American people. 

[00:13:56] First of which is our dramatic rise in ultra-processed food, but goes to environmental toxins, goes to our incentives on sedentary lifestyle, actually an assault on sleep. We get 2 hours less sleep than we did 80 years ago. It’s a whole host of things modern society has done. But the medical system, when it actually, it’s pretty clear what’s happening, what’s leading to this metabolic devastation. It’s not like that people become lazier. It’s clearly their systemic incentives against the American people. They wash their hands of it. That’s not what doctors or any medical professional, literally not one. Not hospitals, not the NIH, not medical schools, medical groups. Nobody’s asking why everyone’s getting sick. Everyone’s profiting from people getting sick. So, I think when doctors say that patients are lazy, “Oh, it’s so hard to take food away. Oh, the American Diabetes Association–” It’s not their job to assume the American patient is lazy. The American Diabetes Association should be saying urgently that we should stop drinking liquid sugar, that we should stop incentivizing diabetes water, Coca-Cola. Instead, they’re accepting money from Coca-Cola. That’s all you need to know on that. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:14:59] Yeah, it’s really interesting. I was talking to my kids about food stamps and WIC programs and things that I was very familiarized with training in Baltimore, and there was a statistic that you quoted in 2016, $7 billion of SNAP was spent on sugar sweetened beverages. So exactly-

Calley Means [00:15:16] Right.

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:15:17] -these food subsidized programs are profiting off of selling this, as you said, liquid diabetes to indigent and poor underserved communities and families. And we’re wondering why we have people addicted to this highly processed, hyperpalatable, nutrient-devoid foods. And it’s interesting, I know that the concept of food subsidies we probably haven’t talked a lot about on the podcast, but I think it’s particularly relevant when you start to understand, following the money chain and finding out what foods are subsidized, what are the most prevalent foods, food like substances in processed foods, and how it all is this very circuitous relationship that contributes to this worsening of our health and wellness here in the United States.

Calley Means: [00:16:05] Thank you for shedding light on this. And I know a lot of folks are listening to this podcast, as I do for bottoms up health empowerment advice. I am convinced that a little bit of knowledge about the systemic incentives rigged against us, it’s kind of like pessimistic, but it’s actually, to me, empowering. I think this questioning of institutions, particularly health institutions, we were attacked for questioning the science. I actually think it’s very positive. I actually think there’s, like, radicalization that’s happening where we can’t really trust the food labels. We can’t really trust what the USDA is telling our kids and us about nutrition. I think that’s fine. When it comes to chronic conditions, there’s been an absolute failure on chronic condition prevention particularly. And I think there’s no reason the medical system should be getting the benefit of the doubt if we have an acute issue that’s going to kill us an infection or a birth appendix or a complicated childbirth the medical system is a miracle. When it comes to chronic conditions it’s been an abject failure. 

[00:16:56] As Peter Attia, pointed out in his book, “If you actually take away acute and infectious conditions, over the past hundred years, life expectancy has been basically flat.” We actually haven’t done anything with chronic diseases. So, I think it’s important to understand that and just double clicking on what you said, these are hyperbolic words, but when I say weaponized, I think that’s very accurate on food, I think one interesting factoid is that in the 1980s, cigarette companies were some of the largest companies in the world. Cigarettes were very much more popular. I think Philip Morris in the 80s was like the fifth most valuable company in the world. It was like, now you’ve got Google, Amazon, the tech companies. It was like Philip Morris and other cigarette companies were like in the Fortune 20 as the writing on the wall. And finally, after decades of being asleep at the wheel, the medical authorities finally trusted the science and spoke out about cigarettes and smoking started declining. You had a mass exodus of scientists from cigarette companies to food companies. 

[00:17:52] So you look at the statistics on American health around 1980s and in the 90s, it just absolutely goes into a devastating direction that’s directly correlated with thousands, tens of thousands of scientists going from cigarette companies to food companies. And in many cases, that the food companies like Kraft and many of the large food companies actually merge with cigarette companies. It is weaponized as an accurate word. You have the smartest scientists in the world creating our food. And when you look at the back of that ingredient and look at the 20 ingredients, you don’t recognize, those are science experiments to make it very palatable, very addictive. And this is just, I think there’s so many contributors and warriors in this movement right now. But it is one small issue I take with the folks who are just research, research, research. That research is based and funded by food companies. And it’s to stoke this debate on whether seed oils are okay, that are highly processed, whether ultra-processed food might be okay, some might be okay. It’s really built to confuse us. 

[00:18:52] When that research is funded by food companies and the food itself is weaponized. It’s like, to me, we’ve overcomplicated it. The problem with ultra-processed food is that there’s just so many science experiments going on in there. I don’t think, honestly, people that say this, like Robert Lustig recently on Andrew Huberman, got attacked for kind of saying that it’s kind of simple. If you can kind of cut ultra-processed food, you’re getting like 80%, 90% there. I think the problem is even people with good intentions, there’s so many people that their livelihoods are dependent on making it complicated, dependent on doing more research. I think nutrition research is almost entirely unnecessary. I think if we had a national priority to take our ultra-processed food consumption from close to 70% where it is today to 20% to 30% like it is in Japan, that would transform American health, that would basically do everything we want to accomplish if we just did that.

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:19:45] It’s interesting. Because as I was preparing for our conversation, I was looking through Tufts Food Compass. I mean, all these different things that have come out in the last few months, and it seems like it’s an overwhelming task to change the system. But for people that are listening, you mentioned reduction in processed food consumption. From your perspective, if you had a wish list of like five things that would really change the narrative, flip the script, get us to a position where we’re able to objectively evaluate our behaviors, our actions, the influence of industry, pharmaceutical industry, the processed food industry, special interest groups, what would be your top five things that you would love to see actually occur that could really make a huge impact? 

Calley Means: [00:20:35] Yeah. I think the biggest lie in this debate is that solutions to the reasons for getting sicker, fatter, more depressed, more infertile are complicated. I think you hear that a lot. “Oh, it’s complicated. It’s much easier to prescribe drugs than dietary interventions.” This is not true. There are a number of things the president could do tomorrow, and I do think this needs to be national leadership. I’ve met with 50 members of Congress in the past year. They’re well meaning, but it is very easy for special interests to pick off different members of Congress. This is a national issue that is impacting every family, kids getting more sick, adults getting more sick, and there’s actually executive orders and I think a national platform. A president, frankly, from either party can execute. My wish list number one, cut funding from pharmaceutical to TV news ads. We’ve heard about this a lot, but we’re the only country, save New Zealand, which slightly does it, where pharmaceutical companies are allowed to advertise on cable news. 

[00:21:30] I believe it was 2019 they estimated 70% of all news funding came from pharma. You can’t even wrap your head around this. All news funding, well over 50%. The key from working with the pharmaceutical companies that most people don’t understand is that, that money is not spent to influence consumers. It’s actually not—for the first priority is not to get you to see that goofy ad and buy the drug. They know you’re going to buy that drug. It’s to influence the news itself. So, when your bills are paid by an industry that has to prescribe more drugs and really necessitates more people being sick, then you have the American news industry with a complete and utter disinterest in why 33% of young adults have prediabetes. I haven’t seen a story on that. I haven’t seen a story on the root cause of why 80% of adults are overweight or obese. And of course, they not only suggest and aggressively communicate that the answer to any health issue is a pharmaceutical intervention, they actively punish and destroy anyone that says there might be other answers other than a pharmaceutical solution. Joe Rogan was literally the top target of the media and public health authorities for saying that, “Eating healthy and exercising might be a good idea to improve your immune system for COVID.” So that’s what you get. 

[00:22:43] And I actually think it’s a huge deal. So, I think we actually, if we clean up our information sources by tomorrow, issuing that executive order, we’d be a lot better. A couple more quick ones. 80% of NIH grants go to professors at universities with direct conflicts of interest. You could have an executive order tomorrow. Earth shattering idea. Not give NIH grants to people with direct conflicts of interest. You can stop recommending poisonous food. The USDA right now says that a two-year-old should– that 10% of their diet can be added sugar. Based on all but one of the 20 members of that panel not having a conflict of interest, 19/20 members of the panel that recommend sugar for two-year-olds had a conflict of interest, was directly paid by food and/or pharma companies. The president could tomorrow get those conflicted doctors off the panel and instruct the USDA to follow the science and say that, “Young infants should not be eating sugar.” It’s not the USDA’s job or the scientist’s job to make policy. It is their job to state the facts. And the fact is in the face of a metabolic health catastrophe among children, the government should not be recommending added sugar. And then we should stop subsidizing. We should stop subsidizing. 

[00:23:47] So stop recommending with the USDA and then stop subsidizing. We’ve talked about food stamps. It’s actually closer to $10 billion a year now go from the food stamp program from the federal treasury to soda companies. But we’ve got federally funded school lunches, zero nutrition standards, literally zero sugar cap. We’re basically now Lunchables is considered a vegetable. And the CEO of Kraft said that he expects billions of dollars to be going from the US taxpayers to Lunchables because they’re improved, healthy school food. We have an absolute disaster and coopting of the federal school lunch program, which is one of the largest sources of children’s calories. And then, of course, agriculture subsidies, which we spend more to– Actually, we spend more to subsidize cigarettes than fruits and vegetables literally. We literally give more money tobacco than fruits and vegetables. And of course, 90 plus percent of all agricultural subsidies go to the components of ultra-processed food that could be changed tomorrow. So, stop recommending, stop subsidizing, and go to the root cause of this industrial plump complex, like the funding for academic institutions that are basically PR operations for pharma and food companies and the media itself. So those are a couple of examples. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:24:53] Yeah, that’s very comprehensive. And do you feel like when you’ve spoken to national leadership, congressmen, etc., that they’re receptive and open to this? Or do you feel like the relationships that they have with some of these special interests are making it challenging for them if they want to get reelected? And I know that that’s oftentimes a focus, is that they’re concerned if I go against this particular organization, I may not get reelected. But I feel like in a lot of different ways, something has to give meaning. Someone at some point is going to have to move the needle and make some tough decisions. 

Calley Means: [00:25:25] I mean, I go back and forth on how much culpability to give the members of Congress who go along. And frankly, doctors. I go back and forth on doctors in the medical system. They’re obviously good people. We know many of them, but they know something bad is happening. So, kind of getting away from that conversation on the intentions and that is just driving into your question, I’d say this. This is the theme I see in almost every meeting. The member of Congress understands high level what’s going on. They are having health issues; their kids or grandkids are– you go into a classroom and it’s not what it used to be. There’s clearly a lot going on among kids’ health, so they understand it. But I hear time and time again that, as example, the congressman says, “I’m a military guy. I don’t understand or have any expertise in health. I’m on a health committee, but that’s not my issue. This is a completely complicated issue.” And they feel stuck in a system basically. 

[00:26:22] So, the corruption here is that the special interest has designed a system that’s so complex, every member of Congress feels stuck. And they feel like the scaffolding of what’s even possible is predetermined before they got in. I’ve actually gotten DMs and literary calls from members of Congress I’ve been shocked, who feel completely helpless and are asking how we can get more attention to these issues, because they feel like the scaffolding of what they can do is just so set. That’s the predominant opinion that I’m seeing among members of Congress of both sides of the aisle on health. 

[00:26:54] The second thing is a bit of just more explicit, I would say, corruption, interest peddling, where they’re confused to death, and the lobbyists are in their office every day pummeling these corrupt studies in their face from Harvard, saying, “Obesity is genetic,” and saying that they’re going to be anti-science if they go against these studies and they’re just a military guy, how do they know? You got to go with the Harvard. So, there’s that. But then there’s a direct threat, because pharmaceutical industry spends five times more on lobbying and public affairs than the oil industry. There’s a direct threat that if they do go against pharma in any way, that there’ll be millions of dollars for ads that they’re killing old people to try to take them out in the next election. So that’s the dynamic you have. I think that’s why I really go to this national level. You need to, as I said, there’s these parameters that members of Congress operate in, but a president can potentially expand or change.

[00:27:49] And I think we’ve already seen in the past three years, in a lot of different areas, the Overton window of what is an acceptable thought is changing a bit. I think that could happen with executive leadership. I’ll say, not to get too political, it’s just notable to me that in the recent poll in a three-way national race, you actually have President Biden getting 29%. So, you have actually RFK getting over 20%, whose main message has been on disrupting the health care system I think we can all agree on. And then President Trump, whatever you think of him, is a very figure that’s trying to disrupt the system. So I think nationally, for better or worse, taking the candidates aside, we have an appetite in America where we have a big distrust of institutions and want to change that culture and are in a bit of a revolutionary mood. And I think when you talk about how institutions have failed, healthcare is the largest industry in the country and the fastest growing. So, I think healthcare inevitably becomes something that people are looking at. And again, I think there’s very clear tactical things you can do to start weakening and undermining the incentives that have broken the healthcare system. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:28:54] No, and thank you for that, because I certainly don’t have the exposure to connecting with national leadership or congressmen or congresswomen at this time. And it’s helpful/disturbing that they feel powerless in many ways. I definitely want touch on the Tufts Food Compass food guide pyramid, which, when that came out, I think all across Twitter, people were devastated and upset that things like Lucky Charms were empirically, “healthier than eggs,” and that there were over 70 brand name cereals that were healthier than very nutrient dense foods. Let’s talk a little bit about the influence of academia in making these guidelines, because I think this is of interest. I think for many people, they probably have heard, whether it’s Nina Teicholz or other voices in the health and wellness space that were kind of bringing it to fruition. Like, people need to understand these are the individuals that are making these kinds of not per se policies, but bringing this information to light and really confusing consumers, which is something that you’ve talked quite a bit about, this confusion that, “Oh, well, you’re saying that these sugar sweetened cereals are going to be healthier than these eggs, and without even understanding that there’s very little nutrition in a lot of the cereals and these processed foods.”

Calley Means: [00:30:11] Yeah. So, the Tufts Food Compass. Tufts is a leading nutrition school and then is also funded by the NIH. And it said, “Lucky Charms is healthier than beef,” as you said, “And Honey Nut Cheerios are healthier than eggs.” So ridiculous headlines and people might have heard of this. I want to make this point that it’s almost so ridiculous, you can kind of be like, “Oh, this isn’t real or this isn’t a big deal.” And let me just go step by step, why this is a huge deal. So why do food companies fund studies like this millions of dollars? So you got to ask, “What’s the goal of this study?” So, the food companies fund this, and the express goal, they divided, I think they analyzed, like, tens of thousands of foods in this esoteric, incredibly complicated rating system that was highly slanted to ultra-processed food. Cheerios were rated higher than quinoa because they treated the fortification and the processing of the grains and then putting kind of fake vitamins instead of, like, natural grains. They actually literally considered Cheerios as a superior grain than organic quinoa. 

[00:31:14] So, totally kind of convoluted, corrupt with a guy first named Darius. I always mispronounce his last name, who has been funded millions of dollars in direct bribes from food companies, consulting payments on a PR tour, lecturing how mere mortals cannot understand how complicated it is to nutrition science and how they needed to have thousands of different parameters for this and that. Anyone who questions that doesn’t understand science. And he directly attacked people like me and others who questioned the study and attacked our credentials. So that’s what you have. So why are food companies funding this? Because the second that study is complete, it goes to Congress. Those are the studies that are brought. But so, there’s an assembly line. So, the second that study with the seal of Tufts and the NIH on it is printed, you have that being told to members of Congress, we don’t need to have any standards on ultra-processed food. We don’t need any standards on school lunch programs, that is anti-science to say that they shouldn’t be serving Cheerios in the school. This study from the– you’re going to go against that. 

[00:32:15] So they’re being attacked. That’s why these studies are existing. And then the press release, which they’ve changed. But the press release, when this Tuft’s Food Compass was announced. It said, “The goal of this study is to impact child and nutrition guidelines.” That was the goal of the study. And I met members of Congress who had that study shoved in their face. These companies fly private jets to every state in America to go to school board meetings to go to local council meetings. That study was brought to thousands of meetings. And the only purpose was to say that you do not need to have fresh eggs at your school, you do not need to have fresh eggs at your prison, you do not need to serve beef at your prison or school or hospital, you conserve Honey Nut Cheerios. That was the only purpose of that study, and it was very successful. But that’s how you got to understand, these studies sound ridiculous. But it sounded ridiculous in the 1980s when the Sugar Research Council, which was a department at Harvard funded by sugar, said that sugar didn’t cause obesity and your carbs were good, which led to food pyramid, like, these things are direly serious. These studies have blood on their hands frankly. And that’s why I’m very cynical about nutrition research. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:33:18] Yeah, it’s completely understandable. And I think you do such a nice job of making the information very clear and I think for anyone that’s listening, causing them to second guess a lot of the propagated information, like I jokingly said, and I say this with great reverence because it’s obviously a good university, but anything that’s coming out in terms of health policy from Harvard with regard to nutrition, I was like, “Completely go the opposite direction because you know that it’s been heavily influenced by the food companies, the processed food industry, etc.” Now, I know that you have a young child at home, and for you I’m sure that having a child probably makes you more vested and interested in these policies because you’re thinking about his future and future of subsequent children in terms of food that is served to children at schools.

[00:34:06] Many years ago, when my kids were younger, we actually created an organization called Real Food for Kids. And so, we had farmers that were donating beef and vegetables, and we were able to kind of get quite a bit of the processed foods out of the school lunch programs, got gardens at the schools. And I acknowledge not every listener or every person that participates in listening to this podcast may be able to influence their local schools to be able to do these things. But I think on a grassroot level, if there’s someone that’s listening and is thinking, I have a child that’s going to go to public school or private school in a few years, what are the things I could be doing right now to make an impact in my area so that I can help change the narrative and potentially the direction in which things are going? 

Calley Means: [00:34:52] Yeah. Well, my head goes there, Cynthia, is it’s bottoms up. To be totally honest, I’m really thinking hard because I’ve got a– my son’s not yet two and we’ve been able to control pretty much what he eats, but I won’t be able to do that much longer. With full caveat that this is all hypothetical and when you actually meet them, it’s easier to talk about this than do it to all parents who have older kids. But what I’m thinking a lot about is, I think food and kids is a way to actually educate them on the most important dynamic. I think we need to manage and underdiscuss which is dopamine regulation. What I think has happened is inevitably that a kid is going to be exposed to food that’s weaponized to get us hooked. And that’s a unique and new phenomenon. But I actually think if you go to adult, every adult has trouble with dopamine. I mean, you look at the rates of porn, you look at the alcohol, drug use, all the different compulsions adults are showing. Our dopamine in various ways, not least of which for adult, also obesity, of course than being overweight. Our dopamine has been hijacked. It’s the most profitable force there is. There’s a war for it and we’re losing the battle. 

[00:35:55] So I think it’s actually—I think for everyone to kind of grapple with. I think all of us grapple with it, and it’s like that’s just a kind of, maybe that’s too high level, but it’s actually worth, I think talking to kids about food in terms of an addiction crisis, and in terms of, frankly, society trying to prey on them and being totally corrupt and wrong. So I think no matter what happens, if you have a kid today, you’re dealing inevitably with kids, I think, having a tough relationship with food and processed food. And we all see kids right where they gravitate, obviously, towards the ultra-processed food and reject the whole food by design. So that’s just kind of one thing I’m thinking about a lot as a parent. I think you’ve got an uphill battle, to be honest with these schools. I mean, working for Coke, I really, schools were a big priority. The majority of schools to this day have full sugar drinks in their soda machines by design. There was big lobbying for that. There’s a big effort to make things normalized. 

[00:36:45] I also just see and I see this in my son’s daycare and nice places, because kids are so addicted and absolutely lose their minds and basically exhibit withdrawal tendencies if they’re denied sugar and ultra-processed food. Schools give in, they get kids and they will have literally, like, drug withdrawal mania on their hands if they don’t. So, I think that’s a big part of this. I think it’s a way to actually control and placate kids. That’s why you walk in any kindergarten class, you got things of candy. I mean, I’m not trying to be difficult here, but I’m cynical about it. I think engaging as much as you can, I think trying to educate your kid. I mean, just be honest. From my standpoint, it’s a qualifier of kind of the school we choose. I do think it is the most important thing for that child to have good metabolic habits. I think a child is to be just direct, is greatly disadvantaged if their microbiome is getting disruptive, if they’re pummeling their body with ultra-processed food as they’re developing. I think it’s a really serious, probably one of the most serious crises we have in the country. And I would choose my school based on that honestly. I don’t think there was anything more important if you’re in a position to influence that to be honest. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:37:56] Yeah. It’s interesting, because I now have teenagers, so I’m at a different stage in my parenting journey.

Calley Means [00:38:02] Yeah.

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:38:03] But I do recall that when they were younger, and I could control every factor, everything that was in the house, everything they ate. And then they started to venture over to friends’ houses, and sometimes they would have exposure to things we didn’t have at home and almost inevitably they would come home and they would say, “I ate X, Y or Z and now I feel sick.” And so, it kind of created this pattern of like, “Okay, if I eat X, I feel good, if I eat Y, I don’t.” And so, one of the two in particular is a little more sensitive to those kinds of things. And he’ll tell me, “If I eat at Chick-fil-A, I’m going to be sick. So, I just avoid doing that.” But I think that it becomes more challenging as they have more peer exposure and they start to see how other people lead. And maybe there are other families that don’t cook. We cook a lot in my house. But I was just curious because I know certainly once I became a parent it completely shifted a lot of my perspective, wanting to make sure that I was setting my boys up with the best possible options that were available at that time. 

Calley Means: [00:39:01] Well, it’s really interesting and you say about recognizing what’s happening in their bodies. I haven’t been on that journey until my 30s and it’s been really rewarding. It’s really interesting if I have gastrointestinal issues, I actually can notice that I’m actually mentally not totally there. And actually, a lot of your serotonin is produced in your gut. Gastrointestinal issues are highly correlated with mental health problems. And just these little things of like– I’m really grateful for it. It’s like noticing if I eat bad food, noticing how I feel. Yeah, my hope, it’s a tough battle here, but my hope is that if schools did their jobs, they would be kind of working with kids on that and talking to them about that and talking to science about sedentary lifestyle, not sitting them in sunless rooms for a lot of the day and sitting down. 

[00:39:44] I’m very passionate about that. You can only tackle so many things at once and I’m really trying to, with TrueMed incentivize, exercise, healthy food. But I think this opportunity of fusing better metabolic habits into early childhood education is like, there’s a lot of people working on that and it’s just like, just don’t think there’s anything more important. If you get kids moving and eating better, I really do think it’s as close to a wonder implementation as anything you could possibly have. There’s a lot of research on mental health issues and even obviously physical issues for just those interventions. So, there’s warriors in the space pushing on that and I couldn’t support that more. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:40:18] Well, that’s wonderful, and I hope I didn’t put you on guard with that question, but from my perspective, that parent angle definitely shifts a lot of things. Please let my listeners know how to connect with you on social media. You have a really powerful voice on Instagram and Twitter. You have a book coming out that you’ve co-authored with your sister who’s been a guest on the podcast as well. Please let listeners know how to connect with you, how to find out more about your organization and the work that you’re doing. 

Calley Means: [00:40:45] Awesome. I’m @calleymeans on Instagram and Twitter and trying to talk a lot about these incentive issues. I asked after the death of our mom a couple years ago from what we believe is a preventable metabolic condition, pancreatic cancer, really got passionate about this issue, inspired by Casey, my sister, who left after a decade of training to start levels and metabolic health company and evangelize metabolic health. My big thesis is that American patient does want to be healthy and we have incentives stacked against them. And at its highest level, my company issues doctor’s notes when appropriate, recommending food and exercise interventions. Our insight is that with that doctor’s note, it unlocks that food that exercise supplements, in some cases for HAS, FSA spending, so you can use tax free medical dollars on what we believe is true medicine, exercise, food supplements, saunas, cold plunges, a whole list of metabolic healthy items. So that’s truemed.com. 

[00:41:39] And again, we can just seamlessly for qualified patients do that quick Telehealth intake to unlock HSA, FSA tax free spending on metabolic healthy items. We’ve got to just slant money away from the interventionist based sick care system that manages diseases after we get sick and actually incentivize these habits, we all talk about. I think if that happens, we’re going to be in a much better place. And then been working for years on a book with my sister, Good Energy. It’s coming out soon. This traces Casey’s story seeing frankly corruption at Stanford Med School, seeing the system on the inside, rising up the ladder, leaving, and then using Casey’s genius to do what I believe with the book accomplished, which is the best set of metabolic health empowerment tips ever put to paper. It’s really the ideas from levels, data sets and her journey, it’s a really actionable plan after really diagnosing the issue, which I believe is the biggest issue in the world really well. So available for preorder. Thanks for bringing attention to that. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:42:36] No, absolutely. Thank you, again. This has been delightful conversation and I look forward to being able to support your book launch. 

Calley Means: [00:42:41] Thank you, Cynthia. 

Cynthia Thurlow: [00:42:45] If you love this podcast episode, please leave a rating and review, subscribe and tell a friend.