This is why there is an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease
in the U.S.:
food deliberately engineered to make people eat until they get fat.
Georgia is not quite one of the fattest states,
but Lowndes County is one of the fattest counties.
There is something we can do, even while Big Food
continues to act like Big Tobacco.
On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis
pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and
discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies.
Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills
and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the
C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare,
private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity
epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial,
the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by
their skill in fighting one another for what they called
“stomach share” — the amount of digestive space
that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.
James Behnke, a 55-year-old executive at Pillsbury, greeted the men
as they arrived. He was anxious but also hopeful about the plan that
he and a few other food-company executives had devised to engage the
C.E.O.’s on America’s growing weight problem. “We were very
concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major
issue,” Behnke recalled. “People were starting to talk
about sugar taxes, and there was a lot of pressure on food
companies.” Getting the company chiefs in the same room to Continue reading →
Aug 2 (Reuters) – Pancreatic tumor cells use fructose to divide and proliferate, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a study that challenges the common wisdom that all sugars are the same.
Tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose used the two sugars in two different ways, the team at the University of California Los Angeles found.
They said their finding, published in the journal Cancer Research, may help explain other studies that have linked fructose intake with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancer types.
“These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation,” Dr. Anthony Heaney of UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center and colleagues wrote.
“They have major significance for cancer patients given dietary refined fructose consumption, and indicate that efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth.”
Americans take in large amounts of fructose, mainly in high fructose corn syrup, a mix of fructose and glucose that is used in soft drinks, bread and a range of other foods.
OMAHA, Neb., May 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Hunt’s®, a ConAgra Foods brand, is pleased to announce that it has removed the high fructose corn syrup from every bottle of its ketchup products. Hunt’s 100% Natural Ketchup brings forth the naturally rich tomato flavor of Hunt’s tomatoes and contains only five simple ingredients: tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, salt and other seasonings, with no high fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients or preservatives.
“In direct response to consumer demand(1), Hunt’s is pleased to offer ketchup sweetened with sugar and containing only five simple ingredients,” said Ryan Toreson, Hunt’s Ketchup brand manager. “Parents are looking for wholesome meals and ingredients they recognize—and the taste of Hunt’s ketchup is something both kids and adults love. Even with the new recipe, we have maintained the same great tangy, sweet taste that Hunt’s has always had and that consumers tell us they prefer.”
“When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”
So a corporation that doesn’t care about science that says a key ingredient
in their product makes rats fat, every one of them, in ways that produce
the same risk factors that in humans contribute to high blood pressure,
coronary artery disease, cancer, and diabetes, that same corporation does
care when its customers say they don’t want that ingredient.
As ConAgra says in the press release:
(1) The 2009 HealthFocus® Trend Report indicated consumer concern over high fructose corn syrup has risen from 27% of shoppers being extremely or very concerned in 2004 to 45% of shoppers in 2008.
“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”
Update 2012-08-30: old graph links decayed; replaced with other graphs of same data.
Almost as many obese as healthy weight adults in the U.S., and the rest are overweight. Something changed starting about 1980.
Data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005) Health, United States, 2005.
Graph source: Wikipedia Blue Cross Blue Shield, with this accompanying text:
While the percentage of the U.S. population considered overweight has been stable since 1960-62, the percentage considered obese has more than doubled.
Michale Pollan points out that if we actually get health care reform that removes terms like “recission” and “pre-existing condition” from health insurers’ playbook so that they can’t exclude artificially unhealthy people from their insurance pool, something else will change:
The moment these new rules take effect, health insurance companies will promptly discover they have a powerful interest in reducing rates of obesity and chronic diseases linked to diet. A patient with Type 2 diabetes incurs additional health care costs of more than $6,600 a year; over a lifetime, that can come to more than $400,000. Insurers will quickly figure out that every case of Type 2 diabetes they can prevent adds $400,000 to their bottom line. Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future profits.
When health insurers can no longer evade much of the cost of treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement to reform the food system — everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches — will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn’t really ever had before.
AGRIBUSINESS dominates the agriculture committees of Congress, and has swatted away most efforts at reform. But what happens when the health insurance industry realizes that our system of farm subsidies makes junk food cheap, and fresh produce dear, and thus contributes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes? It will promptly get involved in the fight over the farm bill — which is to say, the industry will begin buying seats on those agriculture committees and demanding that the next bill be written with the interests of the public health more firmly in mind.
In the same way much of the health insurance industry threw its weight behind the campaign against smoking, we can expect it to support, and perhaps even help pay for, public education efforts like New York City’s bold new ad campaign against drinking soda.
High fructose corn syrup treated like nicotine: it could happen.
All of this is overseen by a handful of giant corporations that control the growth, processing and sale of food in this country. Take Monsanto, for example. It has a patent on a custom gene for soybeans. Its customers are forbidden to save their own soybean seed for use the following year. They have to buy new seed from Monsanto. If you grow soybeans outside their jurisdiction but some of the altered genes sneak into your crop from your neighbor’s fields, Monsanto will investigate you for patent infringement. They know who the outsiders are and send out inspectors to snoop in their fields.
Food labels depict an idyllic pastoral image of American farming. The sun rises and sets behind reassuring red barns and white frame farmhouses, and contented cows graze under the watch of the Marlboro Cowboy. This is a fantasy. The family farm is largely a thing of the past. When farmland comes on the market, corporations outbid local buyers. Your best hope of finding real food grown by real farmers is at a local farmers’ market. It’s not entirely a matter of “organic” produce, although usually it is. It’s a matter of food grown nearby, within the last week.
Remember how years ago you didn’t hear much about E. coli? Now it seems to be in the news once a month. People are even getting E. coli poisoning from spinach and lettuce, for heaven’s sake.
Why are Americans getting fatter? A lot of it has to do with corn syrup, which is the predominant sweetener. When New Coke failed and Coke Classic returned, it wasn’t to the classic recipe; Coke replaced sugar with corn sweeteners.
High fructose corn syrup, bringing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease to a third or more of the U.S. population.
Perhaps it’s time to do something about this.
Before you say “there’s nothing we can do” consider that even Wal-Mart has changed its food buying habits due to customer demand. We vote every time we buy food, and the one thing big corporations don’t want to lose is customers.