Atkins diet more expensive to follow, but the real reason is government subsidies on high-carbohydrate, disease promoting foods

Friday, May 07, 2004
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
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A new cost analysis of diet foods reveals that following the Atkins diet or the South Beach diet can cost nearly twice as much as following the USDA's "thrifty" dietary plan. Now here's the real story behind this news: it's true that the Atkins diet or South Beach diet can be more expensive the way people typically approach them. The first reason is because low-carb packaged foods are remarkably expensive. It's simultaneously more expensive to manufacture many of these low-carb food items (like low-carb breakfast cereal) and there's also an element of profit-taking with these higher prices, too.

Other items in the Atkins diet certainly up the daily budget: red meat is very expensive in terms of calories per dollar, and healthy oils like olive oil, flax oil and macadamia nut oil -- all of which are recommended on low-carb diets -- are admittedly more expensive. But that's only the more obvious part of all this.

The not-so-obvious story here is that cheap sources of calories from groceries -- like those calories found in soft drinks or corn snack chips, for example -- are only cheap because they are subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Both the sugar industry and the corn growers receive extravagant subsidies courtesy of the federal government. This makes high fructose corn syrup very cheap in terms of calories per dollar (but expensive in terms of the fact that it promotes obesity and diabetes, which create enormous future costs for society).

In fact, every food based on corn or sugar is far cheaper than it would be in a free market situation. It all comes down to food politics and influence: Big Sugar, for example, is strongly favored by the Bush Administration, so there's practically no chance of ending those subsidies any time soon. And, unfortunately, the foods being subsudized by taxpayer dollars are precisely those foods that are linked to the alarming rise in chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity. Processed foods based on corn, for example, are typically very high on the glycemic index, low in fiber, low in vitamins and minerals, low in essential fatty acids, and so on. So it is precisely these government-subsidized foods that are contributing to the rise in diabetes and obesity.

The real question to all this goes way beyond what's been reported in the press. The issue is not that the Atkins diet is expensive, it's that our federal governmet is subsidizing foods that directly promote chronic disease. And that's clearly an insane public health policy. It would make a lot more sense to subsidize foods that promote health and prevent disease. What if the government gave subsidies to flax oil and olive oil? What if broccoli were half the price? What if healthy whole grains like quinoa and brown rice were cheaper than corn chips and soft drinks? See, the economics really do matter, because poor people tend to buy whatever they can afford, regardless of its nutritional merit. (Poor poeple also tend to buy a lot of packaged, processed foods instead of making their own meals from bulk ingredients.) And today, I say that the federal government has its food subsidies policy completely backwards. Refined white sugar, for one thing, should be double taxed, not subsidized, if you want to teach people to avoid it. Let's get right down to it: if the government is going to muck around with food prices, then they should make unhealthy foods very expensive and healthy foods cheaper, don't you think?

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About the author: Mike Adams is a natural health author and award-winning journalist with a passion for teaching people how to improve their health He has authored more than 1,800 articles and dozens of reports, guides and interviews on natural health topics, and he has created several downloadable courses on survival and preparedness, including his widely-downloaded course on personal safety and self-defense. Adams is an independent journalist with strong ethics who does not get paid to write articles about any product or company. In 2010, Adams co-founded, a natural health video sharing site that has now grown in popularity. He also founded an environmentally-friendly online retailer called that uses retail profits to help support consumer advocacy programs. He's also a noted technology pioneer and founded a software company in 1993 that developed the HTML email newsletter software currently powering the NaturalNews subscriptions. Adams also serves as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a non-profit consumer protection group, and practices nature photography, Capoeira, martial arts and organic gardening. He's also author of numerous health books published by Truth Publishing and is the creator of several consumer-oriented grassroots campaigns, including the Spam. Don't Buy It! campaign, and the free downloadable Honest Food Guide. He also created the free reference sites and Adams believes in free speech, free access to nutritional supplements and the ending of corporate control over medicines, genes and seeds. Known by his callsign, the 'Health Ranger,' Adams posts his missions statements, health statistics and health photos at

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