The Obesity Epidemic

Anna Belle Murray, Staff Writer

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I go to the grocery store and walk down the long and brightly lit aisles. I see diet soda, reduced fat crackers, sugar free candy, whole wheat bread, and more “healthy” foods. Our government urges its people to work out more and eat less with magazines filled with workout regiments and commercials for light foods that replace fat and sugar with chemicals. With all of these reduced fat and sugar free foods, shouldn’t the American people be overcoming the obesity epidemic that has taken over the country? Why are over two-thirds of adults in America considered overweight or obese? Who is to blame?

94 percent of Americans blamed individual consumers for the obesity epidemic according to Clear Voice Research. Americans feel a sense of accountability over what goes into their body. With less fast food and more salad, they believe they can live a healthier lifestyle and not face the struggles that can come with an overweight lifestyle, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems and more.

Although eating healthy may come easy to some families, I think it would be fair to make the generalization that most families struggle with weight due to propaganda from the food industry, the mounds of added sugar that is found in most foods, and the lobbyists that place marketing over the health of America.

If you think about it, most food advertisers aim their sugary foods at America’s most vulnerable: The youth. All of this advertising adds an explanation to the fact that one in six children are considered obese. American children obtain over 50 percent of their daily calories from fat or added sugar. Children influence what ends up in their pantry by asking their parents to buy the cereal from the commercial they saw on television to get the toy inside. They ask to go to McDonalds for their birthday to play in the playhouse and get mcnuggets and French fries. They ask to buy the diet coke that their favorite singer was drinking in an advertisement.

Big food companies target children who deserve to be given a shot for living a healthy lifestyle without Ronald McDonald and the Kool-Aid Man coming in and leading them to a malnourished life. They shouldn’t be set up by branding to be loyal customers and they shouldn’t start off their life having to overcome the obesity epidemic that runs our country. The government should be regulating advertisements that the people see and they should be informing parents of the added sugar in their products before posting that their product is gluten or GMO free. Kids should be seeing commercials and advertisements promoting fresh fruits and vegetables.

New evidence is showing that sugar can be as addictive as cocaine. This could explain the difficulties that people have with controlling their sugar intake. It could also explain why companies choose to add so much added sugar to their products hidden in the ingredients with various names. If you look on an ingredients label, added sugar is labeled as corn syrup, corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, malt syrup, lactose, raw sugar, and even more. There are fifty-six different names for sugar that companies put on the ingredients list. The average American takes in 82g or 19.5 teaspoons of sugar a day. Men are supposed to take in around 38g or 9 teaspoons of sugar a day and women are supposed to take in 25g or 6 teaspoons of sugar a day.

So many fat free or reduced fat foods depend on sugar to make it more appetizing. Food companies trick the public into thinking they are eating healthy when they are really eating empty calorie foods that are too high in sugar. The body’s pancreas produces insulin to try to control all of the sugar that the body is taking in which spikes up blood pressure and makes the body feel very energized, but the blood pressure drops down shortly after which makes the consumer feel tired and hungry again.

Sugar is a highly likely suspect in the obesity epidemic our country is facing. The information on food labels such as a singular label for sugar in the ingredients list and a recognizable measure of added sugar such as teaspoons are a lot more sufficient in helping consumers make healthy choices for themselves and their kids than the current standards for nutrition labels.

Big food companies use lobbyists in the government to give them rights to push their industry in a positive light. A lobbyist is a person who persuades government leaders to pass laws to benefit their industry. The United States Department of Agriculture makes nutrition guidelines and has a huge influence over what Americans consider healthy and unhealthy. Sadly, they are pushed by the meat department to add red and processed meats as healthy proteins and are pushed by the meat industry to do so. Studies show that processed meats and red meats may be linked to heart disease, premature death, and cancer.

Every five years, the government releases Dietary Guidelines for Americans and every year they are politically driven instead of scientifically driven. The guidelines affect nutritional labels, foods provided by lunch programs, and foods that Americans view as healthy. Marion Nestle, former chair of the Department of Nutrition at New York University explains, “I was told we could never say ‘eat less meat’ because USDA would not allow it.” Lobbyists have the power to push the government to convince its people to buy big company’s products which is why it is so essential to listen to nutritionists over the lawmakers when it comes to eating nutritious foods.

Although, advertising clearly is a large reason as to why our country struggles to maintain weight, there still needs to be an element of self-accountability to stay healthy. As a nation, we need to speak out about this epidemic and urge the government to help us find a solution opposed to standing in the background and letting big food companies feed its people propaganda and guilt for their weight. There needs to be bans on the chemicals and additives that big food companies are allowed to put in our bodies. The truths of the meat industry need to come out to teach the American people that whole foods are the key to a healthy diet over processed meats and added sugars.

Fighting the obesity epidemic can be done, whether or not the government helps, through small decisions such as adding fresh fruits and vegetables to our diets and eating highly processed foods in moderation. We need to treat obesity the same way that we would treat a disease and urge the government to help the people instead of promoting the companies that are poisoning them.

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