The “Coca Cola conspiracy” and the obesity epidemic
In the late 1960′s the US, through conventional hybridization techniques, succeeded in creating new types of corn, dramatically increasing yield per acre by reducing the space required per plant as well as increasing the number of ears per stalk. This development was seen as a phenomenal opportunity for the nation with the world’s greatest capacity of corn production. All that was needed was a way to increase demand for corn. Although shifting the Western diet to grits was not likely there were other options.
Corn fed hogs and Chicken would now become less expensive to produce in confined animal feeding operations which would later proliferate. But due to the inherent inefficiency of converting grain calories into animal calories the development of processed foods that use corn itself and not animal products would be far more profitable than selling pork or chicken.
Corn syrup and corn syrup solids had seen their uses multiply under the post WWII “better living through chemistry” paradigm. Now they would also be much cheaper to produce. In 1973, Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, altered US farm policy to permanently subsidize the increased production of corn, opening a new era in which corn-based processed foods would become far cheaper than their rivals. The convenience and fast food industries were poised to take off. Soft drinks that cost pennies to produce could be marketed at fantastic profit. Corn derivatives would find their way into virtually every processed food.
In the video below, Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the physical damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) are the cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.
The processed foods industry knew that their products would cause an epidemic of obesity among their customers, but they also realized that their bottom line would grow exponentially. The FDA and USDA provided all the cover needed and then some by pointing the finger in the wrong direction. Saturated fat was demonized as a health hazard despite the fact that it had been a major part of traditional diets for the entirety of recorded history among most European cultures.
Subsequently, while Americans reduced the percentage of calories from fats in their diets to 30% from 40%, rates of obesity and cardio-vascular disease steadily increased.
The “low-fat” foods fad was a complete fraud. Convincing consumers to choose “lite” products allowed producers to substitute high fructose corn syrup for the relatively expensive saturated fat content in its products. The industrial trans-fats which were combined with the corn syrup turned out to actually increase the risk of cardio-vascular disease when compared to the consumption of saturated fats. These developments would have enormous implications for public health not just in the US but worldwide over the ensuing decades. The damage would eventually become too great to conceal.
In April 2009 Harvard School of Public Health issued a press release revealing the following research results:
Strong evidence developed at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and elsewhere shows that sugary drinks are an important contributor to the epidemic rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the United States. Faced with these growing public health threats, experts from the Department of Nutrition at HSPH believe beverage manufacturers, government, schools, work sites and homes must take action to help Americans choose healthier drinks. They propose that manufacturers create a class of reduced-calorie beverages that have no more than 1 gram of sugar per ounce-about 70 percent less sugar than a typical soft drink-and that are free of non-caloric sweeteners. They also propose that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require beverage manufacturers to put calorie information for the entire bottle-not just for a single serving-on the front of drink labels. [...]
Americans consume sugary beverages in staggering amounts. On a typical day, four out of five children and two out of three adults drink sugar-sweetened beverages. Teen boys drink more than a quart of sugary drinks, on average, every day. A 12-ounce can of soda or juice typically has 10-12 teaspoons of sugar and 150 or more calories; the popular 20-ounce bottle size now prevalent on store shelves and in vending machines carries nearly 17 teaspoons of sugar and 250 calories. According to research at HSPH and elsewhere, sugared beverages are the leading source of added sugar in the diet of young Americans. If a person drank one can of a sugary beverage every day for a year and didn’t cut back on calories elsewhere, the result could be a weight gain of up to 15 pounds.
Consuming sugary drinks may have other harmful health outcomes: The latest research from HSPH published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, followed the health of 90,000 women over two decades and found that women who drank more than two servings of sugary beverages each day had a nearly 40 percent higher risk of heart disease than women who rarely drank sugary beverages.
They make the following recommendations:
Individuals: Choose beverages with few or no calories; water is best. Call manufacturers’ customer service numbers and ask them to make sugar-reduced drinks.
Food shoppers: Purchase less juice and cross the soda off your home shopping list. Skip the “fruit drinks” too, since these are basically flavored sugar-water.
Schools and workplaces: Offer several healthy beverage choices and smaller serving sizes. Also make sure water is freely available.
Government: The FDA should require companies to list the number of calories per bottle or can-not per serving-on the front of beverage containers.
In January of 2010 the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition released the following abstract of a newly completed study which finds no link between saturated fat intake and heart disease:
Background: A reduction in dietary saturated fat has generally been thought to improve cardiovascular health.
Objective: The objective of this meta-analysis was to summarize the evidence related to the association of dietary saturated fat with risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and cardiovascular disease (CVD; CHD inclusive of stroke) in prospective epidemiologic studies.
Design: Twenty-one studies identified by searching MEDLINE and EMBASE databases and secondary referencing qualified for inclusion in this study. A random-effects model was used to derive composite relative risk estimates for CHD, stroke, and CVD.
Results: During 5–23 y of follow-up of 347,747 subjects,11,006 developed CHD or stroke. Intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of CHD, stroke, or CVD.The pooled relative risk estimates that compared extreme quantiles of saturated fat intake were 1.07 (95% CI: 0.96, 1.19; P = 0.22)for CHD, 0.81 (95% CI: 0.62, 1.05; P = 0.11) for stroke, and1.00 (95% CI: 0.89, 1.11; P = 0.95) for CVD. Consideration of age, sex, and study quality did not change the results.
Conclusions: A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat.