It's no secret that America is facing an obesity epidemic. While in the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her duty to set the country's youth on a healthier path, most recently pushing for new nutrition labels on food products.
Still, nearly 75 percent of the country is overweight or obese, with men, women, and children gleaning the majority of their calories from foods like pizza, pasta, and ice cream. And now it appears the US government has had a larger hand in America's junk food addiction than previously thought.
Though the US has long supported the production of ingredients that go into junk foods—items like corn, soybeans, and meat that get turned into sweeteners, industrial oil, and processed foods—a new study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims that Americans who consume federally subsidized products are 37 percent more likely to be obese.
"They were also significantly more likely to have belly fat, abnormal cholesterol, and high levels of blood sugar and CRP, a marker of inflammation," the New York Times reports.
Though it would be difficult to pin the entire obesity epidemic on the government, especially in a week when Kellogg's has been trying to pass off Frosted Flakes as vegetables, researches believe the study is consistent with previous reports that claim subsidized foods tend to be of poor quality and ultimately harmful to one's health.
“The subsidies damage our country’s health and increase the medical costs that will ultimately need to be paid to treat the effects of the obesity epidemic,” a separate report from the US Public Interest Research Group claimed in 2012. “Taxpayers are paying for the privilege of making our country sick.”
The subsidies program was started years ago to help faltering farmers regain their footing, and since 1995 the government has doled out some $300 billion to support the agriculture industry, as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.
Still, there are those who say the subsidies—outlined in the farm bill—are doing more harm than good, and no longer fulfilling their initial purpose. Smaller farms that grow fruits and vegetables are often left out in the cold when it comes to government money, while producers of "commodity crops" rake in the majority of the cash.
While few could argue that Americans are stuffing themselves with candy and ice cream solely because of the government (thanks a lot, Obama), researches say the problem is a broken system.
“I think it’s safe to say that what happens at the top of the food chain has an impact on what happens at the bottom,” Caroline Franck, a researcher at McGill University, told the Times. “Agricultural policies are just not aligned with public health goals.”
[via New York Times]