Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Getting It All Wrong On Food

It's getting stupid out there.

Or at least it would be stupid if it weren't so calculated.     To illustrate, we go to our old friend Rush Limbaugh,whose (partial) transcripts never fail to demonstrate the deception he continuously peddles.        Determined to convince his radio audience that he is opposed to government intervention in the food industry, Limbaugh yesterday remarked

Let me give you the headline.  It's in Reuters:  "Obesity Fight Must Shift from Personal Blame -- US Panel."  Obesity fight must shift from personal blame.  So we have here a panel of federales who have opined that fighting obesity will no longer involve the obese.  It's not personal.  We are no longer going to blame the obese for obesity.  No, there are other reasons, and those other reasons are an invitation to government to come in once again and take control over another aspect of your life.

An invitation to government to come in once again and take control over another aspect of your life.     If one were unaware how often Rush makes statements that are factually incorrect (when taking a break from the merely manipulative or deceptive), one would think him unaware that government for decades has been intimately involved with "this aspect of your life"- and, specifically, obesity.

Government is there.   And it's not there because of Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, or (Secretary of Agriculture) Tom Vilsack (well, to some extent because of the industry-friendly Vilsack).   Agriculture subsidies began during the depression to maintain the family farm, where such a great percentage of the population worked.    Since then, the family farm has been largely displaced by agribusiness, but (or maybe therefore) subsidies now total nearly $20 billion annually.    Dr. Barry Sears explains  

The two most powerful agricultural lobbies (and hence the beneficiaries of these subsidies) come from the corn and wheat lobbies. You don’t see a lot of corn consumed by Americans because the vast majority goes to feeding cattle and producing corn syrup for sweeteners. The wheat lobby is just as powerful. The primary use of wheat is for humans, but in the form of high-glycemic load foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, and bagels. Therefore, the only way to unload the excess wheat we produce is to get humans to eat more of the products that come from it. This is the other mission of the USDA: to make sure that Americans eat excess commodities. No one should be too surprised when the USDA eagerly promotes a Food Pyramid consisting primarily of grains and starches such as wheat and corn.

While the producers of wheat and corn products are living high on the hog of government largess, less than 1 percent of all governmental subsidies go to fruit and vegetable production. In fact, it is estimated that if even if Americans actually ate the meager amounts of fruits and vegetables recommended by the Food Pyramid, the current acreage would have to be doubled from that used in current production. This extra acreage would most likely have to come from acreage currently used for corn and wheat production—a highly unlikely situation.

Billions go to the agriculture industry to produce grains which fatten Americans, while Michelle Obama urges children to eat more fruit and vegetables, wise advice nonetheless paling in significance to the role of government in encouraging obesity.    Dr. Joseph Mercola estimates

If you were to receive an annual federal subsidy directly, you would receive $7.36 to spend on junk food and just 11 cents to buy apples. In other words, every year, your tax dollars pay for enough corn syrup and other junk food additives to buy 19 Twinkies, but only enough fresh fruit to buy less than a quarter of one red delicious apple.

Approximately $5 billion in direct payments annually are paid to the largest agricultural concerns, mostly for the commodity crops of corn, wheat, and soybeans.    Sears notes the latter crop "is rich in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid" and therefore, as used by the processed food industry, "support(s) the excessive production of both high glycemic-load carbohydrates and pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids."

Subsidizing the corn industry plays a particularly nasty role in the stunning rate of obesity in the U.S.   Americans cannot eat enough corn directly to keep up with production, and converting the crop into high-fructose syrup provides greater profits for agribusiness and the processed food industry.    To years ago, though, a Princeton University research team found

Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.  

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.

"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 professorBart 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....

"These rats aren't just getting fat; they're demonstrating characteristics of obesity, including substantial increases in abdominal fat and circulating triglycerides," said Princeton graduate student Miriam Bocarsly. "In humans, these same characteristics are known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes." In addition to Hoebel and Bocarsly, the research team included Princeton undergraduate Elyse Powell and visiting research associate Nicole Avena, who was affiliated with Rockefeller University during the study and is now on the faculty at the University of Florida. The Princeton researchers note that they do not know yet why high-fructose corn syrup fed to rats in their study generated more triglycerides, and more body fat that resulted in obesity....

In the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese, the CDC reported. High-fructose corn syrup is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year. 

Princeton researchers were uncertain by what mechanism fructose stimulates weight gain.   However, Dr. Barry Popkin of the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill notes that fructose is absorbed more rapidly than glucose or sucrose and thus doesn't provoke production of insulin or leptin.    That in turn prevents the body from recognizing it is full.    More scholarly, "fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production. Because insulin and leptin act as key afferent signals in the regulation of food intake and body weight [to control appetite], this suggests that dietary fructose may contribute to increased energy intake and weight gain. Furthermore, calorically sweetened beverages may enhance caloric overconsumption.”

But education won't help Rush- he was informed of government's collusion with big business in promoting an unhealthful diet.     On January 26, Limbaugh attacked Jose Andres, chef and owner of Thinkfoodgroup, for revealing

The Republican lie will tell you, "Government should not be in charge of feeding America." People of America, the government is doing that right now! It's something called "subsidies." And the big agribusiness received huge amount of subsidies. We need more than one angle to fight the obesity pandemic.

Ever thoughtful, Limbaugh stated Andres

says we have an (impression) "obess'ity pon'demic" and we need to "train the parents," and we are "the Repoob'lican lie," that "Gob'ernment should not be in charge of feeding America." People of America, the gob'ernment is doing that right now!" Subsidies. Yes, we're all eating ethanol! What do you put on your ethanol, Snerdley? Tofu? Anyway, there you have it right there.

So Rush Limbaugh was not ignorant of the government/corporate nexus.    Still, he goes on attacking Michelle Obama, implying that she bears primary responsibility for dictating what America eats.     As usual, the villain is government, not because it betrays the interests of consumers to curry favor with a powerful industry, but because it is overly intrusive.     It is a convenient and useful fantasy, the kind Rush Limbaugh thrives on.

Share |

No comments:

Lady Liberty At Risk

News flash! Donald Trump is a bigot. This is reminiscent of Louie in Casablanca declaring "I'm shocked! Shocked to find that g...