The Overweight American
You don’t have to be a doctor to recognize a health problem when you see one. If you watch the evening news you’ll notice Americans of all races and ages are disproportionally overweight. Doctors, research scientists, and others in the health community have come up with dozens of reasons for this apparent epidemic. Every year there seems to be a new theory that explains the ballooning problem of the overweight american.
Lack of exercise and the propensity of the American public to dine at fast food restaurants are often touted as the root of America’s obesity problem. But these unhealthy habits are just two of the most obvious sources for the expanding problem. Health experts also cite—lack of sleep, depression, antibiotics, pesticides, skipping meals, portion sizes, artificial sweeteners, stress, food addiction and numerous other reasons for the increasing waistlines of the American public.
Well, everyone is entitled to an opinion and here’s mine. The U.S. government started America on the road to plumpness more than fifty years ago with its trade embargo on Cuba. I know that’s a difficult statement to swallow but let’s look at the evidence. On October 19, 1960 the U.S. government stopped sending American manufactured products to Cuba, and Cuba stopped exporting sugar, rum, cigars and dozens of other items to America. In retrospect we can clearly see; the almost instantaneous shortage of sugar became the catalyst that eventually paved the way for America’s obesity problem.
You can witness Americans morphing from thin to chubby, simply by going to almost any “Old Photos” website on the Internet. Photographs of Americans, especially of American children, taken before 1961 show a lean citizenry, and photos of Americans from the mid 1960’s to the present confirm the progression of the heavier and heavier American.
So, what caused Americans to go from a healthy weighted society in 1961 to the gargantuan mass of humanity it is today? I say it was the result of American based companies changing the way they sweetened their products. With the abrupt stoppage of Cuban sugar entering the American market, commodity prices soared and the large sugar consuming companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Hershey and Kellogg switched from using sugar to using the less costly corn syrup.
For a while it seemed like everyone was happy with the sugar switch. The food and beverage manufactures that switched to corn syrup were making huge profits. Some American farmers who had never planted a stalk of corn in the past were now planting corn in every field on their farm. Farmers were getting rich and the demand for corn kept soaring. The race was on to make as much corn syrup as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Corn syrup was relatively simple to make. Gottlieb Kirchhoff invented a process for extracting the sweet syrup from corn in 1812. Back then, corn starch and hydrochloric acid were mixed together and heated in a pressure cooker. Today chemists use more sophisticated methods and produce a variety of much sweeter products. High Fructose Corn Syrup is the most recognizable product in the group. But, depending on what processes are used to extract the syrup, and what part of the world you are living in, the basic product can have a dozen different names. Besides calling it High Fructose Corn Syrup, some of the other names used are Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Isoglucose, Fructose-Glucose Syrup, Dextrose, and High Fructose Maize Syrup.
With all the different names for the seemingly same product, people were getting confused and it wasn’t long before health conscious researches started publishing studies in medical journals that demonized corn syrup in all its forms. They made the argument that no matter how you chemically tweaked corn syrup, it would always cause you to gain weight and it would always be harmful to your health. Well, the corn syrup producers were not about to let that kind of talk go unchallenged. They hired the best scientific researchers money could buy and studies praising the syrup began appearing in medical journals around the world. But for every paper or study produced extolling their product, another one would appear condemning it. The barrage of arguments from both sides convinced some, and baffled others. And today, the dispute continues. At this very moment someone somewhere is saying, “When I was a kid Coca-Cola tasted much better and no one got fat because they didn’t use corn syrup to sweeten it. They used real sugar.”
Well, it took more than half a century but it finally looks as if the big food and beverage corporations are listening to their customers. If you walk up and down the aisles of an American supermarket today, you’ll see all sorts of products marked with signs stating they are made with pure cane sugar and that they contain neither Corn Syrup nor High Fructose Corn syrup. So, if you really want to lose a few pounds, take the first step and read the labels. You might be shocked when you read some of the stuff they put in their products. I know I was when I read the label on a box of salt. It read, “Ingredients: Salt, Sodium, Silcoaluminate, Dextrose, Potassium Iodide and Sodium Bicarbonate.”