(NaturalNews) The affluence of the Western world may be the envy of empires and kingdoms past, but much of that affluence has come at a heavy price in terms of health. The obesity epidemic is only getting worse, despite efforts in the U.S. and Europe to battle bulging waistlines with better research, better information and better dietary habits.
So, why is this epidemic only worsening? What is at the root of the problem? Quite simply, it's the food we eat. Or, more specifically, according to a recent report in The Guardian, what's in the food we eat.
On average, the paper said, the British population is three-stone (42 pounds) heavier than it was in the 1960s. And that is despite British children maintaining about the same level of activity now as then, and without consumption rising considerably in Britain (factors which are about the same in the U.S., according to researchers).
In its report, The Guardian says the culprit behind our expanding waistlines is sugar - excessive amounts of it - in the foods we eat.
The transformation began in earnest around 1971, when President Richard Nixon - facing a tough reelection battle - needed food prices to come down. To that end, he appointed agricultural academic Earl Butz from the nation's heartland - Indiana - to get the agricultural industry on board with transformational changes he wanted to make.
He sought to have farmers boost production of primarily one food item - corn - which they did.
"U.S. cattle were fattened by the immense increases in corn production. Burgers became bigger. Fries, fried in corn oil, became fattier," The Guardian reports. "Corn became the engine for the massive surge in the quantities of cheaper food being supplied to American supermarkets: everything from cereals, to biscuits and flour found new uses for corn. As a result of Butz's free-market reforms, American farmers, almost overnight, went from parochial small-holders to multimillionaire businessmen with a global market."
By the mid-1970s the U.S. had a huge surplus of corn, and Butz traveled to Japan to look at a new "scientific innovation that would change everything: the mass development of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)." One of the best things about HFCS, Butz believed, was that it was especially cheap.
Corn syrup made everything sweeter, gave foods a longer shelf life (from days to years, even) and introduced food manufacturers to scores of other uses. But more than anything, the use (and misuse) of corn syrup, a hyper-sugar of sorts, was silently transforming our bodies as well.
The one area corn syrup had the greatest effect, was the soft drink industry.
Hank Cardello, the former head of marketing at Coca-Cola, told The Guardian that, in 1984, his company switched from using sugar in their soda to using HFCS. "As a market leader, Coke's decision sent a message of endorsement to the rest of the industry, which quickly followed suit," said the report.
Cardello, and no doubt the other soft-drink industry executives, saw no downside in using corn syrup. It was one-third less expensive than sugar, providing the company a large enough profit margin that made it much more palatable to mess with Coke's unique flavor. At the time, Cardello said, "obesity wasn't even on the radar."
Identifying obesity, then its cause
What was getting the attention of the medical and scientific communities, however, was a rising incidence of heart disease. Naturally the experts wanted to know what was causing it to rise.
"An American nutritionist called Ancel Keys blamed fat, while a British researcher at the University of London Professor John Yudkin, blamed sugar. But Yudkin's work was rubbished by what many believe, including Professor Robert Lustig, one of the world's leading endocrinologists, was a concerted campaign to discredit Yudkin." (At the time, the food and sugar lobbies tended to dominate research findings, if you follow.)
Obesity wasn't identified as a legitimate health condition until the 1980s, and it was later still before researchers discovered that the more sugar we ate, the more our bodies wanted.
"At New York University, Professor Anthony Sclafani, a nutritionist studying appetite and weight gain, noticed something strange about his lab rats. When they ate rat food, they put on weight normally. But when they ate processed food from a supermarket, they ballooned in a matter of days. Their appetite for sugary foods was insatiable: they just carried on eating," The Guardian said.
Sugar, more than any other food item, is leading the obesity epidemic. Read the entire report here: http://www.guardian.co.uk