Matt Bewig
All Gov
June 18, 2012

Americans are overweight and getting fatter, probably because they are sugar addicts. From 1971 to 2000, obesity rates in the United States more than doubled, from 14.5% to 30.9%, and today about 68% of U.S. adults are overweight and 33.8% are obese. Although people are eating more calories than before, this alone cannot account for our growing girth, nor can changes in exercise and physical activity. The issue is a pressing one, because obesity shortens lives and costs Americans about $150 billion in health care expenses each year.

Researchers increasingly believe that changes in the nutritional content of the food we eat may be the most important pathological factor in explaining the obesity epidemic, and those changes can be traced to changes in U.S. Agricultural policy initiated during President Richard Nixon’s administration. Earl Butz, who was Nixon’s Agriculture secretary starting in January 1971, used his department’s subsidies programs to push American farmers to increase their production of corn, and helped increase its export around the world, When corn prices fell and a surplus developed, Butz championed the spread of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is made from corn and is cheaper than conventional sugar.

HFCS use has skyrocketed in the ensuing decades, so that today it can be found in processed foods as varied as pizza, meat, bread, coleslaw and soft drinks. Some Americans prefer to buy Coca-Cola manufactured in Mexico because it is made with sugar, whereas U.S.-made Coca-Cola uses HFCS.

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