Our Food Industry and the Obesity Epidemic

The food industry will blame our current obesity epidemic on personal responsibility and making good choices. They will say you need to exercise more and eat less, but in reality gym memberships and weight loss programs such as Jenny Craig are raking in profits at historic levels in fact health club industry revenues have exploded from two hundred million in 1972 to an estimated nineteen billion in 2010.  Today the largest percentage ever of any given population is currently involved in some type of physical activity. So, if sedentary behavior makes us fat and physical activity prevents it, shouldn’t this so called “exercise  explosion” have launched an epidemic of leanness rather than an epidemic of obesity? It is not the consumer’s fault that we are now engineering our foods to last longer and stay fresher. The fact is the food industry is responsible for making the worst foods the cheapest, and this is no accident the worst foods just so happen to be heavily subsidized.

As humans we are hardwired to go for three tastes which are salt, fat and sugar which use to be very rare in nature. Now sugar and salt is available twenty four seven and in tremendous quantities where the average person is now eating hundreds of pounds of this stuff a year. These diets of refined carbohydrates and high fructose corn syrup will lead to spikes of insulin which will gradually wear down the way our body metabolizes sugar. The problem with foods high in fructose is that this type of carbohydrate goes directly to the liver to be processed; unfortunately the liver does not have nearly as high as a storage capacity as the muscles do for glucose. This means that when you consume high fructose foods you are more likely to see an increase in body fat accumulation once the storage needs are met, the liver will start converting the remaining fructose into triglycerides.

Our whole farming industry has turned to bigger, faster, cheaper which is making us fatter. It seems that no one cares about type II diabetes and whether the ecological health of the whole system will sustain itself over time. In most poor societies you now see simultaneously obesity and malnutrition. You see malnutrition in children and obesity in adults and that directly relates to what is cheapest to eat just happens to be the worst food for you. Type II diabetes usually only affected adults but now it is affecting children at epidemic levels. According to the World Health Organization one in three Americans born after the year 2000 will contract early onset diabetes and in minorities the rate will be one in two.

It is really up to us to change the system we need to start to buy from companies that treat workers, animals and the environment with respect, we need to buy organic foods and support our local farmers markets and learn what is in your food. Our children are not lab rats and should not be eating genetically engineered foods. Do not leave your health to some big profit-hungry corporation thousands of miles away where they do not have to live with the consequences of the decisions that they make. It is up to us to change the system and we could make a huge difference by voting with our wallet three times a day!

Jordan Nichols