Subsidized Taste Buds Ruin Health Care Reform

Agribusiness Subsidies Produce the Food that Makes Us Fat… And Fat Makes Us Chronically Ill.

New York Times drawing of an open cabinet with several shelves, some with pill bottles, others with carrots

I CONTEND, along with many smarter than me, that nothing can significantly improve the health care system in America if the epidemic of chronic disease linked to diet is not reversed.

As Michael Pollen, the Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley and author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto writes in a recent OpEd piece:

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.

We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care”.

Note that these ponderously serious statistics are not about genetic diseases, or accidents — things that can’t be helped.  No, these diseases and the pain, suffering and societal costs associated with them are a result of what we decide to put in our mouths.

We’re dying from our eating.  And going broke too!

It’s a story about the dominion of taste buds over all other considerations.  How did it get this way?

I write about many of the underlying causes in my post, How To Get Fat without Really Trying, which is a commentary on the late Peter Jennings special (with video) about food subsidies in America and how they’ve led to overweight Americans.

The bottom line is that too many consumers respond to price and abdicate responsibility for their own health. Subsidize the necessary ingredients in cheap food, like corn syrup and wheat, and people will buy it.  Excessively.

But understand this: No one is forcing anybody to keep eating Cheetos till they become obese and diabetic.  We vote for what consumer goods are presented to us with our money.  Subsidized or not, if we were more responsible and educated about our health, unhealthy food, chocked full of fat, sugar and salt, would just stay on the grocery shelf and rot, albeit very, very slowly.

Why are food choices and behavior not part of the national debate about health care?

Mr. Pollen suggests that it’s a dominant issue that no one wants to address: “The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care.”

This is nothing new.  To address this means that the administration would have to wrestle two, not one opponent (insurers and their supporters), and it might even be more powerful than the first.  And that opponent is agribusiness (and their supporters).

Subsidies are to Agribusiness what mother’s milk is to an infant. It’s so insane that as this nation seeks to improve health care through various expensive reforms, it undermines that very action by spending billions out of the other taxpayer (errr, I mean, Chinese) pocket to ensure that cheap, unhealthy food mainlines to the American public.

Again, Mr. Pollen: “There’s lots of money to be made selling fast food and then treating the diseases that fast food causes. One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry“. (Emphasis mine.)

How screwed up can things get!

Last Updated on September 29, 2022 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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