A Summary and Video of the Late Peter Jennings’ TV Special
Subsidies and Marketing Ain’t So Good For Us
WITH THE strikingly voluble debate currently raging over the state of the American health system, I thought it would be a good time to go back seven years to an ABC show hosted by the late, great Peter Jennings called, How To Get Fat without Really Trying.
The show is more relevant now than ever.
Politics and Money (Again)
Jennings reveals how U.S. government farm subsidies and deft corporate marketing have contributed to making us fat. So fat, that obesity is becoming the nation’s greatest health problem. And yet, efforts to modify subsidies to harmful foods like corn syrup, or limit advertising junk food to children, are undermined by politics and money.
Jennings compares the efforts to ring the alarm about obesity to that made years ago by those seeking to expunge cigarette advertising from TV and control its use; ironic given that the man met his demise from lung cancer due to a life-long addiction to smoking.
What follows is a brief summary of How To Get Fat without Really Trying, followed by the video. Your patience will be exercised with the disjointed transitions between the five short segments.
Some of the most harmful food and food by products that enable a huge processed food industry to flourish is subsidized by U.S. agriculture policy. You’d think that the U.S. government would have the health of its people as its first priority, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
There’s a clear connection between farming subsidies and obesity rates, a link that’s only recently being discussed publicly. In the recent past, such linkage has been routinely denied by most policy makers.
Obvious questions are being asked, such as why corn, and thereby its derivatives such as sugar corn syrup is subsidized at a level 20 times more than fruits and vegetables?
At over $56 billion between 1995 and 2006, corn is most heavily subsidized agricultural product in America. And this is not mainly to put a cheap bushel near every barbeque in America, but to feed the animals we raise for food. Animals, like beef cattle, that don’t naturally eat corn. They do, however, naturally get fat on it. As do we.
Corn syrup is highly processed and is put into thousand of foods. Corn is in soda, where it’s called “high fructose corn syrup”, and it’s hot dogs too.
There are between 30,000 – 50, 000 product in a typical supermarket, the overwhelming majority being processed food made with subsidized, unhealthy “non-food”.
Replacing Fat with Sugar
Many fruit juices sitting so resplendent on the supermarket shelf no longer contain much juice, but much cheaper high fructose corn syrup instead.
Food been reduced to three primary ingredients: salt, sugar, fat. Do you buy as much “low-fat” food as you can? Well, check the labels — often the reduced fat is more than made up by the addition of sugar-type ingredients, like high fructose corn syrup.
And this is making us very fat, despite the billions Americans spend on health, exercise and diet books.
It’s no contest: You would have to jog 15 minutes for your caloric expenditure to equal the caloric intake of just one ounce of potato chips.
Exercise is not a solution by itself.
At Stake — Our Children’s Health
Advertisers spend well over $12 billion annually for “food” ads aimed at children. Most of these foods are processed and unhealthy. (Ever see an ad developed for children exhorting them to eat more veggies?)
Cartoons are used in most of the 10,000 ads clogging children’s TV shows each year, most touting soda and fast food. Candy is transformed into breakfast cereal.
Ads talk directly to kids and kids nag their parents until they relent, and childhood obesity results.
Among six through nineteen year-olds, over 30% are fat or obese (and this is seven-year old data…think it’s gotten better?).
One quarter of elementary school children have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, other heart disease precursors. Type- 2 diabetes in children is a growing concern.
All this and more is fleshed out in the following videos hosted by Peter Jennings:
Published on August 20, 2009