Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dietary Consequences of Farm Subsidies

Soybeans are heavily subsidized by the U.S. government, as is corn. If you read labels, you will notice that corn and soybean products are in everything. Why? Since they are subsidized, they are very inexpensive and hence are used more often than other, more expensive raw materials. For example, compare the price of olive oil, which is not subsidized, with the price of corn or soybean oil, which are subsidized. If we are what we eat, then, according to Michael Pollan, we are corn and soybeans.

Read the ingredients label on any processed food in your pantry; chances are, they will contain soy or corn. Some estimates suggest that 40% of the calories in the standard American diet come directly from either soy (a cheap source of protein and fat) or corn (a cheap source of carbohydrates). And even more is consumed indirectly, since much of the diet of cattle and chicken is also comprised of soy and corn.

So what's the problem? Isn't saving families money a good thing? Saving money is a good thing, but what if, in the attempt to save money, you are eating foods that are a direct cause of the national obesity and diabetes crises?

Is consuming so many products made from corn and soy even healthy? Some people have suggested that eating soy products is dangerous and entire books have been written about the negative aspects of soy consumption. Others suggest that the fear of soy is overblown but suggest caution and limited quantities anyway. High fructose corn syrup has taken a beating in the popular press lately, so much so that the Corn Refiner's Association has petitioned the FDA to rebrand high fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar." And carbohydrates in general, such as those provided by corn products, are increasingly being fingered as a cause of dietary harm, even in the mainstream media, in such publications as the New York Times and the Los AngelesTimes.

Vegetable and seed oils, such as corn and soybean oils, have replaced fats from animal sources in the standard American diet, with a lot of unexpected, negative consequences.

Here's the problem: real food (fresh fruits, vegetables, non-grain fed meats, eggs, dairy products from pastured cows, animal sources of fats, etc.), food that is healthy and that will nourish you, is not subsidized and is much more expensive. In other words, the type of food we low carbers eat. Cheap, subsidized, and processed foods, dense in carbohydrates, are very fattening. Is this an appropriate use of our tax dollars?

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