According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.), 69.2% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight or obese. 12.1% of 2-5 year olds, 18% of 6-11 year olds, and 18.4% of 12-19 year olds are overweight. To me, those seem like astoundingly high numbers, especially the fact that 12.1% of 2-5 year olds are over weight. 12.5%. I know there are lots of body love campaigns out there right now, designed to lift the self esteem of overweight men and women around the globe, but looks are not the issue here. The issue is that being overweight and/or obese causes heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, high cholesterol, infertility, and even cancer. It’s estimated that obesity in the United States costs 147 – 210 BILLION dollars each year.
For decades, low fat products graced (and still do) the shelves of American supermarkets. You can pretty much get anything in a low fat version over there, and low fat diets were/are recommended for people in general, but especially for heart attack and cardiovascular disease patients. There’s even low fat peanut butter. A quick check of the label reveals a huge part of the problem that a lot of people wouldn’t even think twice about: sugar. Low fat peanut butter may have had some fat taken out, but the fat replaced with sugar. Don’t get me wrong, there are fats that are very unhealthy, and going through that McDonald’s drive through isn’t going to do your health any favours, but there are also fats that, despite being fat, do not elevate cholesterol levels or give us all sorts of medical problems. They actually promote cardiovascular health, and health in general. Good fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil, salmon, etc.) should have a regular place in our diets, and we will be healthier for it. Just look at the Mediterraneans – their diet is rich in good fats, yet they much lower rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and diabetes.
All of these low fat products compensate for the loss of fat, which equates to loss of flavour by other means, usually with sugar, and in the U.S. that often means high fructose corn syrup. Not only is fat being replaced by high fructose corn syrup (sucrose, and high fructose corn syrup are linked to obesity, diabetes, and many other health problems), but heaps of other products such as cookies, other baked goods, yogurt, jams, granola bars, and pretty much anything else you can think of that is packaged, contains high fructose corn syrup. One of the biggest culprits though, is soda, and other beverages, which generally contain around 16 teaspoons of sugar or high fructose corn syrup PER CAN. Adult women should be getting no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, and adult men no more than 9 teaspoons. These days a lot of the high fructose corn syrup in soda is being replaced by sugar, which, in the U.S., is generally from genetically modified sugar beets.
In 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture spent $2,702,462,268 on corn subsidies (the most subsidised crop in the U.S.), which means the USDA paid farmers to plant corn. The very corn that is used to make high fructose corn syrup, which is added to so many unhealthy, waist expanding food products. Not only that, but 85% of corn grown in the U.S. in 2012 was genetically modified corn, and that percentage is going up all the time.
Only 4.7% (around 511 million bushels) of the total U.S. corn crop is used to make high fructose corn syrup, but the news isn’t good for the rest of the corn crop either. The majority of corn is used as livestock feed. That doesn’t sound so bad, but non-industry funded studies have shown that rats fed GM corn had an increased incidence of tumours, early death, and kidney and liver problems, just to name a few.
One biotech company, Syngenta, was even criminally charged when a German farmer’s herd of cattle began getting critically ill after consuming a diet consisting solely of genetically modified Bt corn. Syngenta paid the farmer $40,000 compensation.
Livestock are fed corn because it fattens them up faster than their natural grass diet, which makes them able to be slaughtered earlier, but yields much fattier (saturated fat) meat, thus contributing to obesity considering U.S.Aliens eat the second highest amount of beef per person in whole world. Grass fed beef is higher in vitamin E, omega-3, and has 1/2 – 1/3 less fat than grain fed beef.
It’s not just corn though. I said before that sugar in the U.S. primarily comes from sugar beets. They too are included in the farmer subsidy program, with 95% being the genetically modified variety. The resulting processed sugar is used in all sorts of packaged goods, from yogurt to cookies to soft drinks. Excess sugar has been shown to contribute to obesity, diabetes and a plethora of other health problems and added sugar is lurking in all sorts of foods you wouldn’t suspect.
The packaged goods on your supermarket shelves containing added sugar are mostly from huge multinational corporations with many different brand names under their umbrellas that make gigantic sums of money annually. Take Nestle for example. Brands owned by Nestle include: Gerber, Maggi, Hot Pockets, Herta, Stouffers, Dreyers, Lean Cuisine, Jenny Craig, and of course all the confectionary and coffee that clearly say Nestle above the name of the bar or blend. In 2012, Nestle made 11.55 BILLION dollars in profit.
Or how about Coca Cola, who also makes billions in profit each year, and not only makes Coca Cola, but owns or partially owns 500 other brands in countries all around the world, such as, Odwalla, Dannon, Powerade, and Vitamin Water.
So the USDA pays farmers to plant corn and sugar beets, that are then bought cheaply by billionaire corporations to make packaged and bottled goods that in turn contribute to obesity and diabetes. Why is the U.S. subsidising unhealthy foods for billionaire corporations?
Not to mention, since the USDA is subsidising corn and sugar beets, both of which are mostly genetically modified, doesn’t that also mean that the U.S. government is indirectly funding huge bio tech corporations like Monsanto (who, by the way, made 2.94 billion dollars in 2012)?
*Sources below vote banner
*I am not saying to eliminate all forms of sugar from your diet. Fruit contains natural fructose, honey contains both fructose and glucose, and both honey and whole fruits are incredibly good for you and should definitely have a place in your diet. I am strictly talking about added refined sugars in this article.
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SOURCES (In no order and most are not Harvard referenced because that takes too long and this is not a university assignment. Where I could, I’ve just provided links as that’s easier for you to find, but some are from databases that you have to pay for and you won’t have access to, in which case I have properly referenced them)
Bocarsly, M, Powell, E, Avena, N & Hoebel 2010, ‘High fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: increased body weight, body fat, and triglyceride levels,’ Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behaviour, vol. 97, no. 1, pp. 101-106.
Séralini, G.E., Clair, E, Mesnage, R, Gress, S, Defarge, N, Malatesta, M, Hennequin, D, & Spiroux de Vendomois, J 2012, ‘Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,’ Food and Chemical Toxicology, vol. 50, no. 11, pp. 4221-4231, viewed 25 April 2013, Science Direct, DOI 10.1016/j.fct.2012.08.005
Belvoir media group 2012, ‘Cut back on added sugar, especially in beverages, to protect your health: many drinks and healthy sounding foods contain excess sugar that is linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease,’ Women’s Health Advisor, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 6.
If you are interested in the entire corn process, from planting to subsidy to high fructose corn syrup, I highly recommend watching this documentary: