Unlike most epidemics, obesity is more prevalent in the industrialized north than the developing world. In the US, the most overweight country, rates of obesity have doubled since 1980. Sixty-six percent of Americans over 20 are overweight, with half of them qualifying as obese. Seventeen percent of American children are obese.
The corporate media – and much of the medical establishment – would have us believe that obesity is caused by poor self-control and bad lifestyle choices. This attitude has led to a growing call for a “fat tax” to penalize naughty fat people who can’t control themselves.
It’s nonsensical to blame individuals for a condition afflicting a broad cross section of society. Yet as Americans, it’s part of our conditioning to see social problems as the result of individual shortcomings.
The fact remains that social problems always have political and social causes, especially a condition like obesity, which is far more prevalent in low income groups.
With a little effort, it’s easy to identify potential political and social causes for the obesity epidemic. At the top of the list is federal lobbying by food manufacturers, which has led most western doctors to erroneously promote the low fat high carbohydrate diet to their patients. Heavy federal subsidies for corn (a major junk food constituent in the form of high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and vegetable shortening) are also a major culprit, as are “food ghettos”* and metabolic syndrome, a condition directly related to low income and social stress. New research also implicates heavy of antibiotics (routinely added to animal feed on factory farms) and Roundup herbicide,** owing to their devastating effect on intestinal bacteria.
The Food Pyramid Scandal
A growing number of health experts blame our current obesity epidemic on the diabolical food pyramid and low fat high carbohydrate diet the American Heart Association (AHA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Congress and the food manufacturers who fund the AHA (Proctor and Gamble, Nabisco, General Foods, Heinz, Quaker Oats and Corn Products Refining Corporation) have been promoting (without a shred of research evidence) for the last 50 years.
In The Big Fat Surprise, journalist Nina Teicholz lays out a convincing scientific case why high carbohydrate diets cause weight gain because they make us hungrier.
Low income Americans suffer a double whammy in this regard. Our whacko federal subsidy system makes high carbohydrate junk food far cheaper than meat, fish, dairy products or fresh fruits and vegetables. The high prevalence of “food ghettos” in US inner cities greatly aggravates this problem. Often convenience stores and high carb snacks are the only source of food for inner city residents.
High carbohydrate diets can be deadly in low income groups, as they’re also prone to “metabolic syndrome,” also known as insulin resistance. Numerous studies link insulin resistance to “epigenetic”*** effects during pregnancy and the first years of life. Links have been found between low socioeconomic status and high levels of stress hormones during pregnancy. This, in turn, can permanently alter the way an individual utilizes insulin in regulating blood sugar.
In the past five years, new research has also identified a potential role of intestinal bacteria in appetite control and weight maintenance. The human intestine is colonized by about 1,000 different bacteria, which help us digest foods, regulate immunity and neurological integrity and produce essential hormones and vitamins.
Excessive use of antibiotics in western medicine and agriculture, coupled with accumulation of glyphosate (Roundup), has totally wiped out the healthy bacteria in many Americans. This, in turn, has resulted in a host of chronic medical conditions – including obesity.
A University of Washington study reveals that a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar also aggravates dysbiosis (ie an imbalance of healthy intestinal bacteria) by encouraging the growth of “inflammatory bacteria.” These unhealthy bacteria release an inflammatory peptide known as endotoxin, which causes inflammatory damage in the brain’s appetite center.
The April 2013 issue of Mother Jones has a great article summarizing some of this research. And even more exciting studies showing that diets rich in certain fermented foods can bring about weight loss by restoring bacterial balance.
*Food ghettos refer to the wholesale abandonment of inner cities by major supermarket chains, making it virtually impossible for residents to access fresh unprocessed food.
***Epigenetics refers to alterations in gene expression (i.e. the protein enzymes genes produce) based on environmental influences during pregnancy and early development.