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You Can't Fix Rising Health Care Costs Without Fixing Food

by: Jill Richardson

Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 06:16:23 AM PDT

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Trying to fix our rising health care costs without fixing our food system is like trying to fix our defense budget without ending our two wars in the Middle East. In fact, it would be like trying to get a grip on defense spending while invading Pakistan. Or something like that. Here's what I mean:


This graph shows the percentage increase in health care costs between 2001 and 2006 for people classified as "Normal" weight, overweight, and obese.

In a recent blog post over at, Marion Nestle summed it up best. Recently released CDC stats show that the percentage of Americans engaged in physical activity is remaining stable, while obesity and diabetes rates are rising in tandem with one another. Our problem is food. And given the fact that the problem is getting worse, we've gotta do something about it. Not just for our wallets, but for our quality of life.

UPDATE: I posted this on DailyKos and some people thought I meant that we don't need a public option or single payer, and we should replace those ideas with national weight loss. Nothing could be further from the truth. No amount of food system reform can provide care to the 50 million uninsured Americans. We need Congress to fix that. What I am arguing is that in addition to that, in order to control costs and improve quality of life, we ALSO need to fix our food system.

Jill Richardson :: You Can't Fix Rising Health Care Costs Without Fixing Food
Problematic Health Care Costs Other Than Obesity
As for healthcare costs, some of the problem is the high cost of overhead for the insurance companies, no doubt. All of their marketing, lobbying, corporate jets, paper pushing, etc, adds to the bottom line. Then there's the pressure to increase profits every quarter. That's another culprit along with obesity in our rising costs.

For-profit insurers also cause increased costs to hospitals, who devote time (and thus money) to trying to work with each of the different insurers to get reimbursed for their services. For example, the doctors' time spent on the phone with the insurance to get a needed procedure approved, or the time spent figuring out which drug is in the insurance plan's formulary so the patient won't have to pay the full price out of pocket.

While some of the stuff hospitals and clinics need to do to get reimbursed applies to Medicare as well as to private insurers, it's easiest when there are one set of rules (Medicare's) and not a zillion different sets of rules that you need to keep track of (one per insurance payor and plan).

Then there are the added costs from little problems that become big problems, like trips to the emergency room for uninsured patients who could have prevented the big problem by going for routine preventative care instead. Sometimes the patients pay these bills, and sometimes the hospitals get stuck with the tab when the patient can't pay. Either way, it all goes into the big pot of health care costs in the U.S.

In theory, a good bill from Congress can fix many of these things. They might be able to take away some of the ability of the insurance to set tricks and traps in the rules, making less hoops for hospitals to jump through. Hopefully, they will give us a system where all of us can get the preventative care we need, as well as trips to the doctor for little problems that come up, so we can treat them before they come expensive big problems.

But, assuming we do all of that and we do it really well, we still have the costs associated with preventable health problems caused by lifestyle (smoking, exercise, stress, sleep, and diet) and those problems are getting worse.

The Increased Costs of Increased Waistlines
I think it's overly simplifying the problem to call it "obesity." The problem is crappy lifestyles, largely crappy diets. You can be thin with a crappy diet, and you might be fat with a healthy diet. If nothing else, calling the problem "obesity" is definitely ignoring all of the thin people who eat absolute garbage. I'm sure everyone knows one of those people - the ones you hate who can eat anything and still fit in a size 4. Skinny doesn't equal healthy.

That said, obesity is easy to measure, far easier to measure than quality of diet. There's the problem that it's hard to tell what people ate. (There are two methods... disappearance data, i.e. what food was produced or imported that was presumably either eaten or thrown away, and asking people what they ate, which typically underestimates the amount eaten. How much people actually ate falls in between those numbers.) Then there's the problem of agreeing on what constitutes a good diet, which I talk about below.

When I worked in health care, my job was to go into clinics for various specialties and find out what the top diagnoses, procedures, medications, reasons for visit, etc were. Usually I'd work in primary care (internal med, family med, and pediatrics). Pediatrics was the only specialty where most of the problems are things like ear infections (i.e. not chronic, lifestyle-related problems) and an enormous chunk of the appointments were physicals, so the patients in those cases weren't even sick.

Everywhere else, you could pretty much bet that about 2/3 of the patients are coming in with chronic problems, often lifestyle related, and often more than one problem. Grown-ups occasionally go to the doctor for acute problems (ankle sprain, UTI, strep throat, what have you) but the problems you see the most are hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, hypothyroid, heart disease, and stuff like that. Chronic problems. Many patients have more than one of these problems.

Now, only 7.8 percent of the population had diabetes in 2008 (up from 5.3% in 1997). It's not evenly distributed among people by ethnicity/race, age, or sex. Only 2.3% of Americans 18-44 have diabetes. 18.3% of Americans 65 and up have diabetes. And I'm not sure if that is the total percent of people estimated to have diabetes, or just the percent of people who are actually diagnosed with it. I think it's just those who are diagnosed, which would then leave out the people who have it but don't know it yet.

Yet, even though "only" 7.8% of us have diabetes, that bunch of patients see the doctor far more frequently than your average healthy adult. Ditto for anyone else with a chronic problem. If you're healthy, you go in once a year for a physical (we hope) and whenever something goes wrong (like you get a UTI or need a vaccination before going on a trip). If you have a chronic condition, you go more often. That represents one way preventable lifestyle-related problems result in higher costs.

For outpatient care, doctors bill based on a few factors (unless they are doing a procedure), one of which is the complexity of medical decision making. The more complex, the more they charge. If you come in with one problem and you're not taking any meds, that's easy. If you come in with several related problems, they address them all, and you're on several meds, plus you've got some recent lab tests to take into consideration, that's more complex. That represents another way preventable lifestyle-related problems result in higher costs.

Then there are specific costs that actually ARE related to obesity. For example, requiring specialized equipment to accommodate the obese (operating tables that can handle patients over 350 lbs, or MRI machines that fit larger patients, for example). And surgeries are much more complicated when patients are obese. Time spent in the operating room is expensive. So, while obesity is an oversimplification of the problem, sometimes obesity really IS the actual issue.

What Should We Eat?
The government gives us the food pyramid as their representation of a good diet. They also come up with the "thrifty food plan" (the "healthy" diet that a person on food stamps should be able to afford), the WIC food packages given to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and kids under 5 who are below 185% of the poverty line, and the school lunch program. I think there's little disagreement that the quality of food in school lunches is, on average, crap.

But the government isn't the only entity that tells us how to eat well. There are all of the various food companies and food industry organizations who each claim to produce healthy food. There are diet books galore that tell you to eat right for your blood type, drink tons of fresh squeezed juices, fast, limit how many carbs you eat, eat only raw food, go vegetarian, go vegan, and on and on. And there are people who follow each of these ideas. A certain percent of people are looking for a miracle food to save them, and marketers capitalize on that by selling pomegranate, acai, goji, mangosteen, hemp, etc, etc EVERYTHING.

I think that eating well comes down to a few pieces of advice I've heard from trusted sources. For babies, breastfeed! That one's easy. For the rest of us, we should go for a diet of a variety of whole foods, mostly plants. That means that if you can't identify a plant, animal, or fungi that a food came from, don't eat it. Salt and water are exceptions. It is really hard to go wrong when you are eating a variety of whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Animal products should be from animals raised on pasture. Organic food is preferable but not necessary. It's better to eat conventional fruits and vegetables than no fruits and veg at all.

My friend Hank Herrera coined the phrase "MESS:"

Food is an edible plant or animal that grows, walks or swims on the earth and its waters with no genetic engineering, no hormone-driven growth, and no synthetic chemical substances to mimic natural qualities. Over millennia human metabolism and cultures have adapted to the foods growing in every ecological niche.

Anything else is a MESS (Manufactured Edible Substitute Substance)
Any edible substance other than real food is a MESS. A MESS has genetic engineering, hormone and antibiotic residue from concentrated production, and synthetic additives. Emerging research demonstrates that human metabolism cannot handle MESSes. MESSes subvert food cultures and food sovereignty. MESSes and the processes used in their manufacture and packaging contribute to the alarming toxic load that every human being now carries.

There you go. Our health care costs are going to be a mess until we stop eating MESSes. Yet right now, we - and the government - are guilty of what Michael Pollan calls "nutritionism." That means we focus on specific nutrients and ignore what the actual food is. Diet Coke has no calories and water has no calories. If you are only comparing foods by calories, then you'd assume they are equally healthy. Obviously, they aren't.

One reason we do this is because it's non-offensive to food companies. No media outlet (TV, magazines, etc) wants to lose the lucrative ad dollars of the food companies. And for the most part, whole foods aren't advertised. I've seen an occasional billboard for avocados, oranges, and milk, but most of the ad dollars come from MESSes. If you're a news show, instead of calling out specific foods, you can call out fat, calories, carbs, and salt as the evils that are wrecking our health and avoid offending your advertisers.

An example how this plays out in DC can be found in a hearing held by the Senate Ag Committee earlier this year about child nutrition. A representative of Mars candy company spoke, patting his company on the back for coming up with a special line of candy that was made to be sold in schools to kids. It had: Less than 35% of calories from fat; Less than 10% of calories from saturated fat; and Less than 35% sugar by weight. That ignores the fact that you are still selling kids candy in school as part of their lunches. Here's what Tom Harkin said:

So if I have a bar - more than 1/3 can be sugar? I have a problem with that. When I heard that, that means that if I buy something, 1/3 of that could be sugar! Ms. Neely's heard me say many times, a 20 oz [soda] has equivalent of 15 teaspoons of sugar. I just have a problem. If 1/3 of something a child can purchase at school can be sugar - is that really a good nutritional standard? I have trouble with that. I understand the 35% fat, I understand the 10% saturated fat... I think we need to work on this.

Yet he's not questioning the idea of setting nutritional standards that the junk food companies can duck under, often without making their products healthier in any significant way. And we are teaching kids that candy's not just an occasional treat, it's something you can eat with your lunch every day.

Here's the thing. Our bodies evolved over millions of years, eating ONLY whole foods. Our bodies are VERY good at regulating how much we eat and what we eat. There is a reason we feel hungry and we feel full. There is a reason we enjoy sweets and fat. Listening to the signals our bodies send us is a good thing, a necessary thing. Yet we as a society tend to believe it's a bad thing and instead we must restrict the amount we eat and fight our bodies' natural needs. People feel guilty, even. They think they are failures.

One friend of mine insists over and over that the problem with food and obesity is education. Trust me, a fat person is WELL aware that eating makes you fat and being fat is unhealthy. They aren't stupid. They might not know that MESSes are the problem, but I'd bet you that most thin people don't know that either.

When you try to go on some sort of restrictive diet and you fight your body's needs, your body is going to (usually, at some point) win. It's going to give you signals that, at some point, compel you to meet its needs. In other words, it'll make you eat. If you eat when you're moderately hungry, you're rational enough to make a good food choice. You aren't so hungry that you don't mind taking the time to cook, or head out to a place that serves healthy food.

If you are STARVING, you shove whatever you can get into your mouth ASAP. I do this too. If I'm planning ahead, and I'm a little hungry, I'll stick some carrots in the oven for an hour, or for a quicker meal I'll steam some green beans. If I am starving, the first thing I see goes into my mouth, and if that's ice cream, then ice cream is dinner. (That's why I don't often buy pints of ice cream to keep around... instead I try to keep fruit around for when I'm starving.)

Here's where the whole foods, mostly plants, comes in. They were set up to work with your body's natural system of telling you when to eat and when to stop eating. The MESSes are incompatible with your body's signals. Your body is trying to play by the old rules it evolved to play by, and you're giving it new rules that it can't adapt to. You don't need a scientist to tell you how to eat. If you eat a variety of real foods, your body can tell you what you need.

As far as animal products go, when you get pasture-raised animal products, they are going to cost more. If you still want to eat them, the way to handle the increased cost is to eat less of them (compared to how much you would eat factory farmed products). I spoke to a nutritionist yesterday who told me she thinks meat is an important part of a healthy diet, but she thinks it's only necessary to eat about 3 oz of it every 3-4 days. That's nearly like being a vegetarian.

The truth is, I don't know how much meat is the right amount. I haven't seen any evidence that one needs meat to live and be healthy. If you get your vitamin B12 from somewhere, you can be a healthy vegan too. But if you want to eat meat, I haven't seen a good guideline from a credible source (other than the nutritionist I just spoke to) that gives an idea of how much to eat.

The US government says 4-6 oz per day (or less). My hunch is that's too much, especially when taken together with the USDA's recommendation for dairy consumption. Long story short is that we eat too much meat. By a lot. Historically, we eat much more than we did several decades ago, pre-obesity epidemic.

In 1960, the average American ate 28 lbs of chicken, 60 lbs of pork, and 65 lbs of beef. In 2006, the average person ate 87 lbs of chicken. Chicken consumption surpassed pork consumption around 1985 (per capita pork consumption slightly declined over time). Meanwhile, beef consumption rose from 1960 until the late 1970's, peaking around 95 lbs per person... Beef consumption fell since then until about 1990 and stayed more or less stable since then, around 65 lbs per person in 2006 - same as it was in 1960. Chicken consumption surpassed beef consumption in the first half of the 1990's.

If we just went back to the levels we ate in 1960 by reducing consumption of beef, pork, and chicken, we'd be better off than we are now. Especially if we reduced consumption of beef and pork (according to a study that found higher mortality linked to red meat consumption, including pork).

Policy Implications
How does this play out for policy? A few ways. First, we need to grow healthier food. It's ridiculous to talk about changing our eating without discussing changing what we grow. If you produce crap, then how do you eat something other than crap? If every American wanted to follow the government's plans on fruit & veg consumption tomorrow, they couldn't do it. At least, not without supplementing domestically grown fruit/veg with imports.

Right now, 90% of our cropland is 4 crops: corn, soy, wheat, and hay. The corn mostly goes to animals, exports, and cars. Some goes for high fructose corn syrup, and a small bit goes to human consumption. The soy is split between animals and people. Almost all of it is crushed for oil (which we eat) and the resulting meal becomes animal feed. Most of the wheat is people food. The hay is animal food.

So, step one: Grow less animal food, particularly corn and soy. Keep the hay. Then get the animals out of the factory farms and put them on pasture. We won't be able to raise as many animals this way but THAT'S THE POINT! Plus, the animals we do raise will be healthier, AND the environment will benefit as well. Yay!

How do we do this in terms of policy? Well, banning factory farms ain't gonna happen. I say we support Louise Slaughter's bill to ban subtherapeutic antibiotics in livestock. These antibiotics make it more possible to keep animals in filthy, stressed conditions (i.e. factory farms). If they aren't allowed to use antibiotics on animals that aren't even sick, then they'll have to make other changes to reduce animal mortality. Plus, this bill will not harm any farmer who is raising animals sustainably and ethically. The bill is scientifically very sound. There's a ton of lobbying against it happening, but Obama just came out in support of it. Here are details on it - your job is to shoot off a quick email in support of the bill to your Congresscritters (all 3 of 'em).

Another great step would be to pass Tammy Baldwin's bill HR 800. Currently, if you have your land planted in federally subsidized commodities, you will be fined if you want to rotate in fruits &/or veg for a year. There's a great NYT op ed on this from a farmer who got fined for planting stuff like tomatoes and watermelon on land that was previously planted in commodities.

HR 800 will allow farmers to plant fruits & veg on land where they grow commodities. It is supported by both parties, mostly by Congresscritters from the midwest. California ag groups are lobbying against it. This means 2 things. First, we can grow more fruits & veg as a nation, because we're opening up more land to be allowed to do so. Second, we can shift some of our fruit/veg production away from California's Central Valley, which is having horrible water problems, which are resulting in decreased production and rising fruit/veg prices. Translation: More fruits/veg, cheaper fruits/veg, and better use of water (by shifting fruit/veg production to areas that get more rainfall).

The third bill that needs attention from us is the Child Nutrition Re-authorization. Here's a detailed diary I wrote up about school lunch and what needs to change. This is a bill that WILL pass this year, and the question is how good will it be.

Right now it seems that Congress WILL pass an update to the rules on which foods are allowed to be served in schools. The last time that was addressed was 1978, before we had a lot of knowledge we have now about nutrition and before obesity was even a problem. If you want to lobby for that, write your Congresscritters and ask them to co-sponsor The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act. The bill doesn't make the rules, but it directs the USDA to do so based on up to date science.

What is really frustrating is that we don't fund schools adequately, and they try to meet their educational needs by shifting costs over to the lunch program in any way they can, taking money away from feeding the kids the best food possible. They also are often overcrowded, leading to shorter lunch periods and less time to prepare food or allow kids to eat it.

Another problem is that we don't spend enough per kid per lunch ("the reimbursement rate" - the amount the federal government gives the schools for each free or reduced cost lunch eaten by a kid from a low income family... this rate dictates how much they spend on all lunches, even for the kids who pay full price). We spend slightly more than $2.50 per kid per lunch (something like $2.55?). And after you spend some of that one labor and supplies, you only spend about $1 on the food.

The French, Italians, and Japanese all spend at least double that (and they subsidize it so that the kids, even the rich ones, don't pay full price). In those countries, lunch is like a class. They are teaching the kids how to eat well, how to be social and have manners, and how to be French, Italian, or Japanese (since food is a part of their cultures).

A third problem is that schools are under intense pressure to sell as many lunches as possible. The $2.50 or so for each lunch sold must cover the incremental costs associated with that lunch, but the remainder of the money goes towards the lunch program's overhead (which often includes the school's overhead bc the school shifts as many costs as possible onto the lunch program). So, with a few cents per lunch, you need to cover all of that overhead. You have to sell a lot of lunches! And how do you do that? Serve foods the kids like, like junk food.

A fourth problem is the way that these issues all live in their own little silos in DC. When the budgets are made, one line item is health care. Another one is education. Another one is the school lunch program. And often different committees and subcommittees are the ones setting each budget.

Thus, if a healthy school lunch improves the quality of education (because well-nourished kids learn better) and reduces the cost of health care, then it's an investment not a cost to spend more on the school lunch program if that's required to make it healthier. But if the committee setting the school lunch budget doesn't get any credit for reducing health care costs because the health care budget is under another committee, then they don't really see that benefit and they aren't necessarily motivated by it. Likewise, whoever sets the school budget for education probably does not understand that they are strangling the school lunch program and contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic.

If you've made it to the bottom of this diary, then I hope you can stick with me for a few more minutes and shoot off a few emails to your Congresscritters. And, if you are interested in learning more about these topics, these are the sorts of things I address in my book Recipe for America.

The reason why I got into food policy in the first place was because of health care - much more the quality of life than the costs. It's not OK that we Americans are killing ourselves with our food. We deserve more enjoyable and less painful lives than this. We praise our nation for our freedom but if we are imprisoned in unhealthy bodies that cannot do the things we want to do, then we aren't truly free.

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Meat vs. Grains (4.00 / 1)
I haven't seen any evidence that one needs meat to live and be healthy.

I guess I haven't seen any evidence that one needs grains, whole or otherwise, to be healthy. Do you have any evidence that you can cite?

It seems to me that if there was in fact some biological need for grains, we would never have survived as a species, since grains weren't available at all until very recently, evolutionary-wise. A few thousand years compared to a few hundred thousand years without any grains.

There is plenty of evidence that people can survive quite well on an all-meat diet, as long as that diet contains plenty of fat.

And there is also plenty of evidence that grain-based diets are harmful, both from the phytates that bind to minerals and make them unavailable to the body, and the gluten that can cause leaky gut syndrome and other inflammatory processes.

So I'm fine with eating whole, real foods. But I'm really unclear how grains fit into that at all.  

I'm not quite sure where you're getting your info (4.00 / 1)
that early humans didn't eat cereals (corn, wheat and oats) or pseudocereals (quinoa and amaranth) because they definitely did.

Although we think of grains as agricultural crops, they grew (and still grow) wild just about everywhere and have been eaten as long as there have been people. Prior to being farmed, they were foraged instead.

Here's an article based on research from the University of Chicago that talks a bit about some very recent findings about early human diets. Early human diets were definitely not particularly meat heavy.

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost

[ Parent ]
Foraged grains? (4.00 / 1)
No, it would be impossible to gather enough calories from foraged wild grains for humans to thrive.

All of the available anthropological evidence indicates the opposite. Grains did not become a significant part of the diet until the neolithic period (10-15,000 years ago). Raw grains are inedible (and toxic) unless cooked or fermented.

In fact, the available evidence indicates that meat-enhanced diets were what allowed our brains to grow and our intestines to get smaller, freeing more energy for use by the brain.

We have no biological requirements for grains, or even carbohydrates at all. But we absolutely require protein and fatty acids to survive. The fact that we have increased our population by cultivating cereal grains does not mean that our bodies thrive on a grain-based diet. The opposite, in fact, as is becoming more and more obvious.

[ Parent ]
Where have I said that it was only (4.00 / 1)
grains that humans lived on? Please don't read things into my words. If you read the article I linked to, which is based on state of the art research at the University of Chicago, you'll see that it clearly says that the best evidence at the moment all points to early humans who ate primarily plants and fruit.

Analysis of weaponry of early humans suggests that the meat they ate was mostly scavenged. The earliest large bones they've associated with humans show animal teeth marks under human tool marks, strongly suggesting scavenging as the primary method of obtaining the meat of large animals.

Hunting large prey was extremely dangerous, their tools were crude and small prey doesn't provide much food for all the work. Scavenging isn't exactly risk-free either. Plants, nuts and fruits (including grains and pseudocereals) are easy calories.

Early humans had fire. They can and did cook things. But it's not necessary to cook grain to eat it. It's very easy to take grain and sprout it--all you need is water--and the resulting sprouts are easily digestible in raw form.

I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
--"Blueberries" by Robert Frost

[ Parent ]
I did read the article... (4.00 / 1)
It discussed A. Africanus.

Those are not human, but pre-human. "Due to other more primitive features visible on A. africanus, some researchers believe the hominin, instead of being a direct ancestor of more modern hominins, evolved into Paranthropus."

Really, you're reaching here. Heck, chimps and gorillas have mostly a plant-based diet, but not at all exclusively when you include the grubs and sometimes, unfortunately, other chimps.

(Oh, and the apes have enzymes in their digestive systems that turn plant matter into fatty acids, so the fat content of what they ultimately survived on was much higher than normally thought. But I digress.)

We're discussing modern humans, the ones that displaced Neandrethals, and became the hunter-gathering groups that you can still see today. It was meat, i.e., concentrated protein and fat = high calorie to effort ratio, that made that possible.

Running down antelopes and wildebeasts wasn't all that dangerous, it just took effort and patience. Humans can run down many animals, especially in the veldt and grasslands where we evolved, because we can deal with the heat, but the animals can't. They can out-sprint us, but if we keep coming for them, then eventually overheat. There are a number of books that describe that process if you care to look for them.

Really, it's fine to have a relgious viewpoint that eating animals is immoral. I can certainly respect that position, even though I don't agree with it because I don't think that the Inuits are immoral for eating whales and seals.

But you really need to look at the range of anthropological research, not just the bits that you are comfortable with. Humans have been eating animals for millions of years. We've been eating grains for a few thousand, and when we started our brains and bodies shrunk significantly.

Early humans did have fire, but not until probably 200,000 years ago, which is still quite recent. And really, I'm sorry, but to say that hunter-gatherers were sprouting grains is just silly. There is just no way to gather enough calories of grains to make the expenditure of energy to do so economically viable. Tubers and other root-based vegetables are not grains, and are very different in their nutritional content.

Jared Diamond does a pretty good description of why agiculture was a big mistake culturally:


though he doesn't really deal with the negative nutritional effects of grains, e.g., depression of thyroid function, leaky guy syndrome, inflammatory processes. For that you have to look at some more targeted research. I'd recommend doing that perhaps.

[ Parent ]
Hunter-Gatherer Macronutrient ratios (0.00 / 0)

"These compiled data indicate that the most representative (median and mode) subsistence dependencies are divided approximately equally among the 3 subsistence categories of hunting, fishing, and gathering. However, it is evident from Figure 1Dthat most (73%) of the worldwide hunter-gatherers derived >50% (56-65%) of their subsistence from animal foods (hunted and fished), whereas only 13.5% of worldwide hunter-gatherers derived >50% (56-65%) of their subsistence from gathered plant foods. Of the 229 hunter-gatherer societies listed in the Ethnographic Atlas, 58% (n = 133) obtained 66% of their subsistence from animal foods in contrast with 4% (n = 8) of societies that obtain 66% of their subsistence from gathered plant foods. No hunter-gatherer population is entirely or largely dependent (86-100% subsistence) on gathered plant foods, whereas 20% (n = 46) are highly or solely dependent (86-100%) on fished and hunted animal foods."

[ Parent ]
Another solution: Put limits on what can be marketed to children (4.00 / 4)
Thank you so much for hitting the nail on the head, Jill. Pediatricians are horrified and overwhelmed by what they are seeing. There's a lot of profit to be made off of the obesity epidemic - from fast food to diabetes pharmaceuticals.

You mentioned food corporation marketing dollars - much of that is directed at kids, who study after study shows are the most vulnerable to both the effects of marketing...and the horrific health consequences.  This is about saving health care dollars, but it's also about trying to save an entire generation of kids from growing up with the painful complications of chronic diseases, like diabetes, and ultimately dying younger than their parents.  

Food marketing is everywhere, including our public schools, who depend on those ad dollars when public funding fails them.  And that McDonald's is across the street from your child's school for a reason - to lure them in before, during or after school.  Recent concern has been raised that fast food chains near schools are direct competition for school lunch - I can't tell you how many teens I've spoken to who save their lunch money to get fast food after school instead.  Unfortunately, this endangers the financial viability of schools making their menus healthier, until the food environment outside the school is addressed as well.  We need to limit food marketing's reach, if we're going to fix this epidemic.

Judy Grant
Value [the] Meal Campaign Director
Corporate Accountability International


Challenging Corporate Abuse of our Food!

Horrible problem (4.00 / 1)
i fully agree with every single word written in this article. It doesn't matter that this post is old. The problem still exists and nothing is done about it. Everything we have done is new health care system but it won't prevent people from obesity. I was passing cna certification online few months ago (it is some sort of training for young doctors) and I saw that the main portion of questions there are about obesity. It is a real problem and we must do something about it. I don't know actually what. Maybe some sort of social advertisements. People must think about their weight. I hope that our government will come up with some idea in the nearest future. Thanks for the article though.

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- Recipe For America
- Eat Well Guide
- Local Harvest
- Sustainable Table
- Farm Bill Primer
- California School Garden Network

- The Center for Food Safety
- Center for Science in the Public Interest
- Community Food Security Coalition
- The Cornucopia Institute
- Farm Aid
- Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
- Food and Water Watch
National Family Farm Coalition
- Organic Consumers Association
- Rodale Institute
- Slow Food USA
- Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
- Union of Concerned Scientists

- Acres USA
- Edible Communities
- Farmers' Markets Today
- Mother Earth News
- Organic Gardening

Book Recommendations
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
- Appetite for Profit
- Closing the Food Gap
- Diet for a Dead Planet
- Diet for a Small Planet
- Food Politics
- Grub
- Holistic Management
- Hope's Edge
- In Defense of Food
- Mad Cow USA
- Mad Sheep
- The Omnivore's Dilemma
- Organic, Inc.
- Recipe for America
- Safe Food
- Seeds of Deception
- Teaming With Microbes
- What To Eat

User Blogs
- Beyond Green
- Bifurcated Carrot
- Born-A-Green
- Cats and Cows
- The Food Groove
- H2Ome: Smart Water Savings
- The Locavore
- Loving Spoonful
- Nourish the Spirit
- Open Air Market Network
- Orange County Progressive
- Peak Soil
- Pink Slip Nation
- Progressive Electorate
- Trees and Flowers and Birds
- Urbana's Market at the Square

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