There’s something that you probably don’t know about the obesity epidemic: It had its origins in the US Department of Agriculture and the food industry. An article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper and a recent BBC documentary show clearly how big business and big government contributed.
In summary, government and big business made us fat by greatly increasing the amount of sugar in our food. The increased level of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup in our food was the result of a government policy that started under Richard Nixon – and was not a decision made by consumers.
How Richard Nixon Started The Obesity Epidemic
The roots of the obesity epidemic started back in 1971 when Richard Nixon and his Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, started a policy of massive subsidies for corn farmers. The idea was to greatly increase the amount of corn and drive down food prices in order to help Nixon get reelected.
The policy worked and by the mid-1970s the United States was producing so much corn, nobody knew what to do with it. Butz came up with a solution: High fructose corn syrup (HCFS) or liquid sugar made from corn. The syrup was cheaper that traditional sugar and it was soon added to a wide variety of food.
“HFCS was soon pumped into every conceivable food: pizzas, coleslaw, meat,” BBC journalist and Guardian writer Jaques Peretti noted lasted year. “It provided that ‘just baked’ sheen on bread and cakes, made everything sweeter, and extended shelf life from days to years. A silent revolution of the amount of sugar that was going into our bodies was taking place.”
Author Michael Pollen told the Christian Science Monitor in 2002 that America produces “way too much corn.”
“So, we make corn sweeteners,” Pollen said. “High-fructose corn sweeteners are everywhere. They’ve completely replaced sugar in sodas and soft drinks. They make sweet things cheaper. And we subsidize this overproduction. We structure the subsidies to make corn very, very cheap, which encourages farmers to plant more and more to make the same amount of money. We’re subsidizing obesity.”
High fructose corn syrup resulted in the least healthy foods being the cheapest. Since 1971 to 2000, the obesity rate in the Unites States doubled, from 14.5 percent to 30.9 percent.
Food Industry Tried to Suppress Truth about Sugar and Fat
Last year many Americans were shocked by Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s excellent 60 Minutes documentary on the dangers of sugar. Many others were alarmed by University of California at San Francisco professor Dr. Robert Lustig’s YouTube video Sugar the Bitter Truth. Many were surprised to learn that sugar and not fat was one of the main causes of obesity and problems like heart disease.
“Authorities consider sugar as ’empty calories’ – but there is nothing empty about these calories,” Lustig wrote in the journal Nature earlier this year. “A growing body of scientific evidence is showing that fructose can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases. A little is not a problem, but a lot kills – slowly.”
What’s truly frightening is that scientists and doctors were aware of this fact as early as the 1970s. Unfortunately, the food industry was able to keep the truth about sugar from the public by discrediting the researchers behind it.
University of London researcher John Yudkin published research that indicated sugar was causing obesity in the 1970s. Yudkin’s research was ignored largely because of a campaign to discredit him by the food industry, Lustig believes.
“There was a huge lobby from [the food] industry, particularly from the sugar industry, and Yudkin complained bitterly that they were subverting some of his ideas,” Yudkin’s colleague, Richard Bruckdorfer, told The Guardian.
Lustig thinks the food industry wanted to discredit Yudkin because it was planning to market large amounts of “low-fat” food that was high in sugar. The idea was to sell the low fat food to people worried about heart disease. Sugar was added to the low-fat food to make it tastier and more appealing.
“When you take the fat out of a recipe, food tastes like cardboard, and you need to replace it with something – that something being sugar,” Lustig said.
A big cause of obesity is the food industry and the government that supports it. If we want to end obesity, we need to end our dependence on big government and industrialized food.