food politics, media

High-Fructose Corn Syrup is Bad Because….

I was watching tv the other day and saw this ad:

It’s the Corn Refiners Association latest attempt to defend their product high-fructose corn syrup. The ad shows a couple having a picnic in the park. A girl offers her boyfriend a bite of a popsicle. He says, “Don’t you love me?”
She says, “Of course I do. Take two bites.”
And he says, “But there’s high-fructose corn syrup in that and you know what they say…”
“What?” she says.
Then he just sits there with his mouth open… “um…”
She calls him silly; it’s just corn. It’s just like sugar. Same calories. Perfectly safe, in moderation.

Not silly. If that boyfriend could have spit out the words there are plenty of arguments to be made. Like…

1. High-fructose corn syrup is not the same as sugar. It may be sweet like sugar, but to the body the two are not the same at all. Unlike sugar which is glucose that is easily burned up and used, fructose gets metabolized as fat. It all goes through the liver and the body stores what it can’t use. So when you consume 120 calories of fructose, 40 end up stored as fat.

2. We’re consuming way too much of it. HFCS is cheap – a lot cheaper than sugar. So food manufacturers use it and it winds up in just about everything on the grocery shelf. Take a look next time you’re shopping. Check the bread, salad dressings, crackers. I bet it’s in there.

As for it being safe in moderation, OK, but the numbers are anything but moderate. On average we’re consuming 65 grams of HFCS per day. Before it came on the market in 1975, 20 grams per day of fructose was average.

So we’re consuming more, the body’s storing it as fat, and wait it gets better….

3. HFCS disrupts the release of hormones that regulate appetite. Now studies are showing that fructose doesn’t trigger leptin – a hormone that’s released to tell them brain the stomach is full. So HFCS leads to major overeating. There’s another connection between HFCS and fat.

That’s right. What do you have to say to that girlfriend?

food politics

The Food-Healthcare Connection

Here’s something to think about.

In 1960 the average household spent 17.5 percent of their income on food, while 5.2 percent of their income went to healthcare.

Fast forward nearly 50 years to 2008…

Last year the average household spent 9.9 percent of their income on food and 16 percent of income on healthcare.

Going by this, the average U.S. household is spending half as much on food and three times as much on healthcare as we did 50 years ago. True, part of the increase in healthcare spending can be attributed to advances in medicine, etc., but looking at the increase in diet-related disease along with changes in eating habits (e.g. the rise of the fast food chain), the lines are drawn. As our spending on food has decreased, the amount of money going to healthcare has increased.

After months of debating the complicated healthcare crisis, when you look at this little statistic, things look a lot simpler.

What if Americans spent a little more on food? What if we put more value on the quality versus quantity? What if we invested in heath education programs? What if the focus shifted to prevention? What if government spending on healthcare went to subsidizing broccoli instead of insurance companies? What if the role of food in our country became a topic in the healthcare debate? I think it should be.

It’s something to think about … and a little fodder for the debate you’ll be having with someone in your family over the holidays.

food politics

He Cooks And Saves Children

I like this guy. Sam Kass is the assistant chef at the White House. In the morning he makes the Obamas breakfast omelets and in the afternoon he brainstorms with policy makers on ways to improve national school lunch programs and fight child obesity.

Quite the interesting guy, at 29 he has no formal culinary training; he just learned by doing at a restaurant in Chicago. His goal wasn’t only to make food that tastes good (he’s got that part down). Sam had his eye on bigger things – like the government subsidized high-fat lunches in school cafeterias.

His philosophy: “It’s got to taste good, you know? They’re not going to eat it, no matter how healthy it is, if it doesn’t taste good.”

He’s an advocate for healthy eating habits. He speaks out against pesticides. And (I hear) he makes a mean chicken salad with toasted almonds.

Watch out, Ross. 😉

food politics

Food Politics

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Michael Pollan chimes in on the healthcare debate. Bringing attention to the elephant in the room, he says there’s a disconnect between two very related industries: food and healthcare. When three-quarters of heathcare spending goes to “preventable chronic disease” linked to diet, according to the Center for Disease Control, you’d think someone would connect the dots.

Right now there’s a lot contributing to the political hairball that is the food industry, but he says it may not always be that way, especially if the rules change on insurance companies. Without the option of dropping clients based on a “pre-existing condition,” there’s new incentive to prevent costly diseases and keep clients healthier. And as Pollan says, “Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future profits.” It’s that shift that will get the ball rolling on food industry reform. And from there we can really start talking about solving our health care crisis.

Read the full NYT article.

For more from Pollan, check out his 2008 open letter to Obama about proposing a new post: Farmer in Chief.

media, news

TIME Magazine: Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

Americans now spend less on food than ever before. According to the USDA, less than 10 percent of our income is spent at the grocery store. We’ve come to expect cheap meals. But, we’re paying the difference in other places, like with health-care bills and damage to the environment. This week’s cover story in Time Magazine sums it up….

“Once you factor in crop subsidies, ecological damage and what we pay in health-care bills after our fatty, sugary diet makes us sick, conventionally produced food looks a lot pricier.”

You can get a burger, fries and a Coke for right under $5. I paid about that much last night for a head of broccoli. Bad-for-you calories cost less than good-for-you calories. We know this. And it’s no wonder America has a weight problem. But it’s not just our personal food choices that are to blame. When you look at what goes into making that $5 meal, it’s even worse.

Corn is the staple of everything on that value menu, from the corn syrup in the Coke, to the oil the fries are cooked in, to the feed the cow eats. That’s because corn is super cheap to grow thanks to government subsidies. Annually farmers produce 12 billion bushels of corn – four times what they did in the 70s – to feed our food supply. Corn itself is not bad, but with the chemicals necessary to produce such a mass crop, the rate at which Americans are consuming it, and what we’re now not eating instead, it’s simply unnatural.

Cheap corn has kept meat prices low while demand has sky rocketed. It’s the diet of farmed animals (even fish), never mind that cows and chickens are meant to eat grass. Details. The animals live in wall-to-wall packed CAFOs (concentrated-animal feeding operations) and they’re pumped full of antibiotics to keep the waste and bacteria from killing them. All of that gets packaged up with the meat. And it’s sold at $2 a pound on a shelf near you.

Angry? Then you should probably read the article.