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Making Americans Fat ..

Jan 13, 2013 - 0 comments

Government ‘Makes Americans Fat’

A new report points a finger of blame for America’s obesity problem at a surprising culprit — Washington, D.C.

“The government, with its accomplices in the food lobby, has helped to make and keep us fat” through “subsidies and misguided food suggestions,” according to the report from The Freeman, the flagship publication of the Foundation for Economic Education, which advocates free-market, libertarian ideas.

At any given time, 45 percent of American women and 30 percent of men are trying to lose weight. Yet 65 percent of adults are overweight — as are 15.3 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds — and the prevalence of obesity has risen from 14.5 percent in 1980 to 30.5 percent today.

One example of the government’s misguided meddling is the food pyramid, according to The Freeman report by Dr. Jenna Robinson, director of outreach at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

In 1982, federal authorities told Americans to reduce fat consumption from 40 percent to 30 percent of daily intake, so instead of fats, Americans began eating more carbohydrates — an increase of 57 grams per person from 1989 to today. The typical American diet is now about 50 percent carbohydrates, contributing to the obesity problem.

Over the years, government recommendations have contributed to the replacement of lard with trans-fats, the substitution of margarine for butter and back to butter again, and conflicting recommendations about eggs, orange juice, vitamins, certain types of fish, and the temperature at which it’s safe to eat meat. A committee at the Food and Drug Administration awarded sugar “Generally Recognized as Safe” status, even for diabetics, and in 2011 Congress legislated that pizza sauce can count as a vegetable in school lunches.

“Setting aside the issue of whether such government recommendations are correct, its actions as food nanny essentially absolve Americans from the responsibility of making their own nutrition decisions,” Dr. Robinson stated.

Farm subsidies serve to reinforce the government’s recommendations. Most subsidies go to corn, rice, wheat, and soy — staples that can be converted into cheap, highly processed foods.

In the case of corn, government subsidies starting in the mid-1980s led to food companies turning cheap corn into high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a replacement for more expensive sugar. HFCS then was used in previously unsweetened foods, including bread, baked goods, cereal, condiments, canned vegetables, and pasta sauce. The average American now eats 41.5 pounds of HFCS per year — financed by U.S. corn subsidies.

Wheat, rice, and soy are turned into similarly processed food products. And government subsidies make these foods very cheap — much cheaper than unsubsidized raw produce, fish, or meat. Today, 23 percent of Americans’ grocery budgets go to processed foods and sweets, compared to 12 percent in 1982.

“One thing is clear: Government interference is steering us in the wrong direction — toward sweetened and processed foods that no doctors, nutritionists, or researchers recommend,” Dr. Robinson concludes.

“To improve the ‘Standard American Diet,’ the first thing government can do is get out of the way.”

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