food subsidies and obesity

An interesting article in the New York Times, all about farm subsidies:

A few years ago, an obesity researcher at the University of Washington named Adam Drewnowski ventured into the supermarket to solve a mystery... how is it that today the people with the least amount of money to spend on food are the ones most likely to be overweight?

Drewnowski gave himself a hypothetical dollar to spend, using it to purchase as many calories as he possibly could.... Drewnowski found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of cookies or potato chips but only 250 calories of carrots. Looking for something to wash down those chips, he discovered that his dollar bought 875 calories of soda but only 170 calories of orange juice.

... Drewnowski concluded that the rules of the food game in America are organized in such a way that if you are eating on a budget, the most rational economic strategy is to eat badly and get fat.

The cause of all this, asserts the author, is the massive subsidies the US pays to farmers to grow, for example, corn and soy. This leads us to "A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce."

It's an excellent article, well worth a read. I found it via Megnut, also worth a read.

Nikki commented:
It's VERY interesting when you look at what State governments are doing to combat obesity, or not doing. And what the CDC is reporting lately. Take our great state of Michigan that launched a nutrition program for select food stamp recipients... in concept it was good, but legislators are not public health officials and public health officals have probably never looked at the true cost of nutrition--which is increasingly sad. Even more saddening is that it takes a researcher (or 5--it's a hot topic right now in obesity research) to point it out to those providing the care... and believe it or not, the providers question the validity of the research--even when the proof is standing in front of them telling them it's true.
on Mon Apr 23 21:21:49 2007

Heidi commented:
I knew it was Michael Pollan before I even clicked the link. If i knew when your birthday was I would buy you his books, since you tend to link to/talk about his kind of stuff fairly frequently. Then again, maybe i should worry about getting you and Sasha a wedding present and Sasha a birthday present before I do that. Also, I should go back to working on my prelims, which have only made me cry twice today. :( I prefer to do my worrying in short, catastrophic bursts.
on Tue Apr 24 03:16:56 2007

Derek (Erb) commented:
All of this was actually previously described, in greater detail and historically over time, in an excellent book:

Fat Land: How Americans became the fattest people in the world
By Greg Critser

It's a good read and quite enlightening...

on Tue Apr 24 13:30:40 2007

David commented:
I absolutely have to agree that none of the information is new. However, I thought the tie to the fact that we are on the one hand calling obesity an 'epidemic', and funding lots of programs, while simultaneously funding the source of the problem was nice.

Whups - in reading the reviews, it seems like the link was certainly made elsewhere first. OK, so maybe he isn't original, but he still writes well! Heidi, you can totally buy the books for our anniversary, which is also my birthday.

on Tue Apr 24 18:13:18 2007

David commented:
By the way - there's a form to submit your opinion to the ag department, if you think it will do any good.
on Tue Apr 24 18:25:10 2007

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