Last month, we featured this piece about how ultra-processed foods are affecting our bodies. This piece builds on it by showing how the processed food industry is actually incentivised to cause harm. Before that, the article reiterates the gravity of the situation:

“In 1990, zero states had obesity rates above 20%. As of 2018, zero states had obesity rates below 20%….Today, 6 in 10 Americans have a chronic disease…For the first time in American history, our life expectancy is trending down, driven entirely by the chronic diseases that kill literally millions of Americans each year.

We have the fattest, sickest population of Americans that has ever existed. Today, 50% of Americans have diabetes or prediabetes (and 25% of kids); 73% of Americans are obese or overweight, (and 45% of kids). 93% of Americans have at least one marker of metabolic dysfunction that signals future chronic disease3, and chronic illness is up 200%+ since the 70s.”

Whilst America might stand out, trends elsewhere aren’t too different.
The article highlights how these physical health issues are also at the heart of the mental health crisis:

“Metabolic psychiatry is a field of study that explores the link between physical and mental health. Many in this field — Dr. Chris Palmer among them — have argued that many mental illnesses (such as anxiety, ADHD, and depression) are largely metabolic dysfunctions of the brain. Just as obesity is often a physical symptom of an underlying metabolic issue, anxiety is a behavioral symptom of the same underlying metabolic issue.

People with diabetes are 2x–3x more likely to develop major depression. Women with a BMI greater than 40 (“severe obesity”) have an 82% greater risk of having children with epilepsy. People with Type 2 diabetes have bipolar rates 3x higher than the general population. Mothers with obesity have a significantly increased chance of having a child with autism”

Much like the NYT article, this blog blames the processed food industry as well. But this goes further by showing how American policy incentivises the processed food industry:

“Have you ever wondered why Coca-Cola uses high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in Coke rather than real sugar? It’s not because it tastes better; it’s because it’s cheaper, thanks to rampant crop subsidies!

…Since 1995, corn subsidies in the U.S. have totaled more than $116 billion: an average of over $4 billion per year. Soybeans and wheat subsidies aren’t far behind, at $48 and $45 billion each, since 199510. And (shocker) because these crops are so heavily subsidized, they’re also by far the most abundant.

Farmers are incentivized to plant as many of these crops as they can, because they are guaranteed to make a profit. This profit guarantee means that farmers plant corn/soy/wheat in greater amounts than humans actually consume. In fact, less than 1% of all corn grown in the U.S. is the corn on the cob that’s eaten in its unprocessed form!

Most of the corn grown in the US — that taxpayers subsidize! — is used for animal feed, food additives ..and alcohol (for fuel use).

Because corn, soy, and wheat are subsidized and abundant, these crops are cheap. And because they’re cheap, they are in everything.

Subsidies have artificially made corn cheaper than sugar and soybean oil cheaper than olive oil, which means that Big Food companies can increase their margins by using these crops. That’s how, within just a few decades, HFCS and vegetable oils are now in everything, giving your mom and grandma diabetes.”

The author even rants about how the processed food industry commissions ‘research’ to show the show their products in positive light from a health perspective before going on to suggest how we can look after our health in a world incentivised against it.

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