One in three adults are clinically obese. The reason? Selling foods laden with sugar, salt and fat is incredibly lucrative.
Most Americans eat processed foods and many of us are as hooked on the sugar, fat, and salt as heroin addicts. In his book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Michael Moss says that every year the average American eats 33 pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970 and 70 pounds of sugar (about 22 teaspoons a day). We also ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of it comes from the shakers on our table. Where do we get all this excess fat, sugar, and salt? They come from processed food and the giant food companies are making a killing with huge sales, while we and our children get fatter and sicker.
“It’s no wonder, then, that one in three adults, and one in five kids, is clinically obese,” says Moss. “It’s no wonder that twenty-six million Americans have diabetes.” What we eat can also affect our brain function, says Dr. Glenn Smith and a processed food diet can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Moss’s research shows that the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales. It’s not easy to support health when there’s so much money to be made selling things that make us sick.
It’s hard to imagine how much we’re talking about here. To get an idea, here’s a little thought experiment:
We’ll start with a $100 dollar bill, currently the largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most of us have seen one of these and probably have had at least one.
A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2″ thick and contains $10,000. You could fold it up and put it in your pocket.
Believe it or not, this next little pile is $1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000). You could stuff that into a grocery bag and walk around with it.
While a measly $1 million looked a little unimpressive, $100 million is a little more respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet…
And $1 BILLION dollars… now we’re really getting somewhere with ten pallets.
Next we’ll look at ONE TRILLION dollars. This is the number of dollars the processed food industry makes in sales in the U.S. alone EACH YEAR. That’s a million million dollars, a thousand billion. It’s a one followed by 12 zeros. Here’s what it would look like all stacked up.
Ladies and gentlemen … I give you $1 trillion dollars … stacked two pallets high with “you and me” standing by gasping for air.
If we want to improve our health, this is what we’re up against. Here are some of the major purveyors of the fat, sugar, and salt from the index of the book Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss: Ben & Jerry’s (now owned by food giant Unilever), Butterfinger, Campbell Soup Company, Capri Sun, Cargill, Cheetos, Cheez Whiz, Chips Ahoy!, Coca-Cola, Con Agra, DiGiorno pizza, Doritos, Dr. Pepper, Frito-Lay, General Mills, Hot Pockets, Jell-O, Kook-Aid, Kraft Foods, Lunchables, Nabisco, Nestlé, Oreos, Oscar Mayer, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Post Foods, Ragu, Shake ‘n Bake, Stouffer’s, Taco Bell, Tang, Unilever, United States Congress, Velveeta, Yoplait.
This is a formidable force to contend with if we want to get unhooked and reclaim our waist lines and our health. But the good news is that every one of those $1 trillion dollars comes from us. We can refuse to give it to them and rather spend it on real food that is grown locally and is whole rather than processed with sugar, fat, and salt.
Here are some resources I have found to be helpful: Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. T. Colin Campbell with Howard Jacobson, authors of Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. David L. Katz, M.D., author of Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well, David A. Kessler, M.D. author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of Eat to Live.
If we’re going to have a healthier future for ourselves, our children, their children, and for the fragile food system of the planet we all share, it’s time we took control of what we eat.
Photo: mayeesherr. (away)/flickr