How Corruption Makes Americans Fat and Kills Americans Early

Government distortion of free markets is a major contributor to America's obesity epidemic.

Recently, news services blazed the headline "Excess sugar consumption from soda, desserts leads to higher rates of cardiovascular death" across the internet.

We all know that too much sugar isn't good for us, but what this and similar articles were stating was that added sugars can more than double the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other maladies that lead to premature death. From the article:

“…we already have emerging evidence to show high consumption of added sugar is linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes, hypertension and instance of CVD,” Yang said. “But what was a little unexpected is the appearance of risk is not linear, meaning when you have the higher consumption of added sugar your risk increases exponentially.”

There's something vitally important that is stated in such a casual way that most people will miss it. The researcher quoted here used the term added sugar

What is added sugar?

Added sugars are not the sugars that a particular food naturally contains. For example, if you eat an orange, you get a pretty good helping of natural sugars in it. But there are no added sugars. Added sugars are added to foods to make them more tasty and palatable. Most importantly, added sugars are almost always artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup.

Since this is an economics blog and not a health blog, we won't deal with the dangers of artificial sweeteners here. Because it relates directly to government interference in the free market, we'll focus on high fructose corn syrup, which is in almost ALL processed foods.

High Fructose Corn Syrup and Your Brain

When you eat any kind of food, your blood sugar rises. Sugary foods make your blood sugar go up faster. If you get too much sugar in your blood, your body releases insulin to convert the excess sugars into fat. Your body then stores the fat for later use. The body's insulin response is normal and necessary for your survival.

When you eat enough food, your body sends a signal to your brain that tells you to stop eating. This signal is controlled by your levels of insulin and a hormone called leptin. 

The problem is that fructose in general and high fructose corn syrup in particular does not generate this signal to your brain. If your food contains high fructose corn syrup, you can eat and eat and eat and never get a signal that you're full. It's only when you can't physically fit anything more in your stomach that you feel like you should stop eating.

In the January, 2013 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the University of Southern California published a study in which they analyzed the body's response to high fructose corn syrup. In that study, researchers found that drinking a fructose-sweetened beverage created no sense of having ‘had enough.’ In fact, it produced a “completely different effect” than did the consumption of a beverage containing glucose.

Study co-author Dr. Kathleen Page, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Keck School of Medicine stated the following.

When we gave participants a fructose drink…there was not that fullness signal getting  up to the appetite control region.

It is precisely because our foods contain so much high fructose corn syrup that so many Americans are fat. Our bodies literally do not know when to stop eating.

There is no amount of will power that will fix this. We must stop eating high fructose corn syrup (and artificial sweeteners, but we're really not going into that-I promise) or we will literally eat ourselves to death.

If High Fructose Corn Syrup is So Bad for Us, Why is It in All of Our Food?

The one and only reason our foods contain so much high fructose corn syrup is because farmers, most specifically the sugar and corn industry farmers, successfully lobbied our government for tariffs on imported sugar.

World sugar prices are currently quite far below sugar prices in the US. Government tariffs and import restrictions on cheap natural sugars produced abroad artificially drive up the price. But the food industry wants cheap sugar. So the corn producers have stepped up to the plate by providing us with cheap high fructose corn syrup. In fact, our government subsidizes these farmers to help keep the price low. 

So the government is using tariffs to cut out the competition that would normally drive down the price of sugar. At the same time, it is using taxpayer dollars to subsidize farmers to produce high fructose corn syrup as a substitute for cheaper, healthier sugars we can and should be able to buy from abroad.

This is corruption, pure and simple. It is nothing more than a politically well-connected industry using the government to distort free markets to favor themselves at everyone else's expense. The result of this is that Americans are becoming increasingly obese with each generation, are suffering a wide range of physical afflictions unnecessarily, and are literally dying early because of the corrupt dealings of Big Money and Big Government.

But Wait, It Gets Worse

I discussed this situation in a recent conversation with an American cattle rancher. His response was astounding, appalling, and enlightening.

According to this rancher, who I'll call George (not his real name), farmers and ranchers are very aware of this state of corruption in the US food production industry. In fact George stated that because of corn subsidies, ranchers are using corn as their primary feed for their cattle even though corn is poisonous to the cows!

That's right, the corn is apparently poisonous to cows. Although corn fattens the cows more rapidly than almost anything else, it causes significant declines in their health. George stated that cattle producers using the feedlot system that has become popular recently literally fatten their cows with corn until they are nearly to the point of death. Just before they get sick enough to die, they slaughter their cows.

The result is that there is more meat to sell. However, the meat is lower quality. It contains more saturated fats and lower Omega-3's than grass-fed cattle (cows are designed to eat grass and only grass). This causes a higher incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease in those who eat the meat.

It's hard to blame the cattle producers for this. If our markets weren't distorted by the artificially low price of corn, the ranchers wouldn't use it to feed their cattle. In fact, without government subsidies, the feedlot system would not even be profitable. It is simply the corruption of Big Money and Big Government that forces ranchers to take this approach to stay in business. In a healthy free market, they would not have to resort to such tactics.

And Even Worse

If government tariffs and subsidies are resulting in food that is dangerous for us to eat, why don't we get rid of them?

The answer to that one was also supplied in our conversation with George, my rancher friend. According to George, farming states always have their primaries for the presidential elections before all other states. A few decades ago, other states tried to make their presidential election primaries on the same day as the farming states. The farming states responded by moving their primaries to an earlier date.

Why do they want to be first in the presidential primaries?

Being first in the presidential primaries enables the farming states to get the presidential candidates to come and campaign in their states. No candidate would dare skip them because they serve as the kickoff to everyone's campaigns. If anything goes wrong during these early primaries, it could end a candidates chance to be President.

Once the candidates arrive, the farming industry representatives publicly and specifically ask each and every candidate if they will repeal or support subsidies for farmers. This becomes a litmus test for every candidate running for President of the United States of America. It's virtually guaranteed that candidates that don't support farm subsidies are weeded out before the primaries in all the other states. So the farm subsidies continue at the expense of our pocketbooks and our health.

The corrupt collaboration of Big Money and Big Government is literally making us fat and killing us early.

What Can We Do about This?

It is difficult to imagine that this problem will stop on its own. No matter how big the public backlash is that might occur when everyone finds this all out, the special interests involved in this corruption are too big toi dislodge.

Are we then without hope?

We can free ourselves from this situation by reinventing money. You and I can build free market economies that encourage local production of whatever we buy, this includes our food. By rethinking money and reinventing our own local microeconomies, we can make the local production of healthy food more economically viable. Simply put, if we reinvent money, small local farmers can compete better and we can get food from them that we know is healthy.

At Cognisaya, we are developing software that will help you create microeconomies that give you a greater voice and give you greater freedom to choose among the products that you buy. These microeconomies have the added benefit of revitalizing your local community and giving you a more direct connection to the people who produce what you consume.

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