Class Warfare Blog

September 26, 2013

The American Diet and the Great American Food Industry

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has published “The Changing American Diet,” a report which uses data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grade the healthiness of U.S. eaters. (One of CSPI’s main foci is the diet of Americans.)

According to this report, there’s been real change in the composition of the American diet since 1970. The average American ate almost 500 more calories per day in 2010 than he or she did in 1970, a 23 percent increase. Fruit, vegetables, lean dairy and the meat, egg and nut category have all been virtually flat in that time. So almost the entire increase is due to growth in sugars, fats (mostly in the form of oils), and carbs. Bonnie Liebman, the author of the CSPI report, attributed the bulk of that increase to two things: cheese and flour.

This also corresponds somewhat to the period in which we have seen an obesity epidemic.

Partly, in my opinion, this has been due to ill-founded health recommendations by our public health agencies. We can hardly blame a lack of exercise when so many of us are hitting the gym, running, etc. The level of physical activity now as compared to 1960 is staggering and yet collectively we are getting fatter. The culprit, of course, is the increase in carbohydrates which, if the extra 500 calories were stored (which it would not be in its entirety) it would mean a weight gain of almost one pound a week (roughly 1lb of fat equates to 4000 Cal of energy). If we had reduced the amount of food eaten in other categories, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so bad, but we were told that fat in foods (which suppresses appetite) was bad and that carbs (which seem to stimulate appetite) were good. (The appetite suppression mechanism in our bodies takes about 20 minutes to act, so gulping our food down quickly rarely gives it time to do so, another factor in the obesity epidemic. Eating should be slowed down.)

As we eat more and more processed food and cook less and less fresh food, we are increasingly at the beck and call of the food industries. Their interest, I can confide in you, is to sell ever more of their products, so if any additive stimulates you to eat more of their products, they are for it. So, you will find two ingredients in almost all processed foods: sugar and corn products. (Yes, there is also salt, but salt was never as bad as it was portrayed.) The sugar and corn products are carbohydrate rich, appetite stimulating, and fattening.

So, we are turning our children over to corporate education services. We are turning our health over to corporate food interests. And we are turning our government over to corporate and monied interests. And all of those corporations have only one interest: and your child’s education, your health, and your political power can’t hold a candle to that one interest: showing a profit next quarter.

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