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Processed Foods and Its Link to the Increasing Obesity Epidemic

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Processed Foods and its Link to the Increasing Obesity Epidemic Savannah Eisert English 214-54 Melanie Wise 15 April 2013 Eisert 1 Processed Foods and its Link to the Increasing Obesity Epidemic Lunchables, Twinkies, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, or even a trip to McDonald’s after school are just few of the memorable foods as a child that always seemed so exciting and delicious. As a child, I wondered why these scrumptious foods were always just a treat, but never an every day meal on my diet that I could enjoy. But what I did not know was the dirty truth behind these foods: what they are really made out of.

Behind food corporation doors lies the truth about processed foods, what they are really made out of, and why these corporations keep producing these foods. Through the years, scientists have found different ways to transform this corn so it becomes more useful and cheaper to produce. As the corporations became more and more money hungry, the less they cared about the health of Americans and more about how much processed foods they could sell. Ultimately, this leads to the most increasing health issue America has been facing over the years, and to this day: obesity.

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According to HBO’s “The Weight of the Nation: Confronting America’s Obesity Epidemic,” over one-third of American adults (roughly about 36%) are obese, and about 12. 5 million children and adolescents (ages 2-19), or 17%, are obese. Over the years, as processed food production increased, so did obesity because of money hungry food corporations increasing this productivity and government doing nothing to help stop the unhealthy lifestyles processed food has created. Background Information on Processed Food Before figuring out why processed foods are a main factor to obesity, one must know what processed foods are and why they are bad.

So what exactly are processed foods made out of? Michael Pollan goes into deep research about what these processed foods are made out of within his nonfiction book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. According to Michael Pollan, an average American consumes about one ton of corn per year, but not before being heavily processed by a processing plant, and then reassembled as soft drinks, breakfast cereals, or snacks (85). As Eisert 2 science progressively grew, so did the certain ingredients within processed foods. For example, high-fructose corn syrup is used in a majority of foods because it tastes exactly as sweet as sucrose.

Pollan’s research states that high-fructose corn syrup today “is the most valuable food product refined from corn, accounting for 530 million bushels every year” (89). Because high-fructose corn syrup is easy to use and cheap to get, most food corporations use it to create the perfect masterpiece. For example, Pollan talks about how that the third age of processed foods “push[es] aside butter to make shelf space for margarine, replace fruit juice with juice drinks and then entirely juice-free drinks like Tang, cheese with Cheez Whiz, and whipped cream with Cool Whip” (91).

With the help of high-fructose corn syrup, food alternatives can easily be made for the same satisfaction. Because of these processed foods, obesity begins to increase. But how exactly does processed food cause obesity? Michael Pollan investigates the truth behind food science and it’s ways to get people to eat more. Pollan states, “The power of food science lies in its ability to break foods down into their nutrient parts and then reassemble them in specific ways that, in effect, push our evolutionary buttons, fooling the omnivore’s inherited food selection system” (107).

Since an average adult can eat only about fifteen hundred pounds of food a year, food corporations are trying to find ways to “get people to spend more money for the same three-quarters of tof a ton of food, or entice them to actually eat more than that” (Pollan 95). So if a person eats more than normal, his or her weight will increase as they are intaking more of these processed foods that entices people to eat more. But what specifically triggers a person’s body to eat more than they naturally should?

Food systems in a person can “cheat by exaggerating their energy density, tricking a sensory apparatus that evolved to deal with markedly less dense whole foods” (Pollan 107). So by increasing this energy density in processed foods, obesity problems seen within America continue to rise. Eisert 3 The Increase in Processed Food and Obesity Over the Years The beginning of processed food did not recently happen, but has been around since the mid-1800’s. In Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, he explains the journey of how corn developed to what it is today. In 1866, “corn syrup . . . ecame the first cheap domestic substitute for cane sugar” (Pollan 88). Then as corn refining started to be perfected, high-fructose corn syrup became quite popular. Pollan states that high-fructose corn syrup “is the most valuable food product refined from corn, accounting for 530 million bushels every year” (89). Once these different food processes were discovered, processed foods began making their way into the country. At first, the point of having processed food was to free “people from nature’s cycles of abundance and scarcity,” so to have food preserved longer (Pollan 91).

But as time went on, the goal changed from “liberating food from nature” (Pollan 91) to “improve[ing] on nature” (Pollan 91). Since processed foods began to be so easy to make with the help of high-fructose corn syrup, the cost to make it was relatively cheap compared to the natural farmers. Pollans statistics show that “a dollar spent on a whole food such as eggs, $0. 40 finds its way back to the farmer . . . by comparison, George Naylor will see only $0. 04 of every dollar spent on corn sweeteners” (95). So ultimately, the increase in processed foods have to do with its easy and cheap ingredients.

Based on Michael Pollan’s studies, he found out that many of the reasons why obesity has increased so much is due to the increased use of high-fructose corn syrup in the foods people eat. Pollan begins by saying that “corn accounts for most of the surplus calories we’re growing and most of the surplus calories we’re eating” (103). With today’s advanced technology, the country has gone from being able to process corn into two different things, to now creating over hundreds of things with the help of a processor and corn.

Pollan’s statistics show that “since 1985, an American’s annual consumption of high-fructose corn syrup has gone from Eisert 4 forty-five pounds to sixty-six pounds” (104). On top of the high-fructose corn syrup people intake, the other sugars also must be accounted for. Therefore, this excessive amount of sugars in processed food is the main cause to the increase of obesity in America. Who is to Blame? Behind all the corn, the processing, and the food that results, is the man in charge: food corporations. Because of food corporations greed for money, processed foods have escalated out of control, causing a serious health epidemic: obesity.

Michael Pollan, also author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, wrote an article for the New York Times called “Unhappy Meals. ” Pollan makes a very convincing point at the beginning of the article that gives a serious blame to the people who created and have been continuing the making of processed foods: These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why?

Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat (1). His claim is very much true because these food corporations try to trick the customers into thinking food products are okay to eat, when in reality, they are terrible for a person’s health in the long run. Food corporations have come to a point where they are more interested in how well their company is doing rather than the country’s health. So ultimately, the rise in obesity is because of these food productions little interest to care about the health of the country.

In Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he proves that food corporations are only interested in the money rather than the well-being of the country. He says that a “cheaper agricultural commodities [are] driving food companies to figure out new and ever more elaborate ways to add value and so induce us to buy more” (Pollan 96). So if these companies are driven by the Eisert 5 cheap food productions, they will make sure sales to the people of the country increase, therefore increasing the obesity epidemic. Why blame these food corporations for the obesity epidemic?

Aren’t they just trying to help the economy by selling the food they produce? Yes, this is very true, but that does not mean these corporations have the right to sell the country unhealthy, life threatening foods. According to Michael Pollan’s research in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, American’s high-fructose corn syrup intake has gone up from forty-five pounds to sixty-six pounds (104). Basically, Pollan states that Americans are “eating and drinking all that high-fructose corn syrup on top of the sugars we were already consuming” (104).

Just because big corporations, like Coca-Cola and Pepsi figured out high-fructose corn syrup was a few cents cheaper than sugar, they completely switched from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup because “consumers didn’t seem to notice the substitution” (104). Pollan’s research shows that soda is most of the sixty-six pounds of high-fructose corn syrup that American consume, and by using the ingredient that causes obesity into one of the most popular drink is just cruel because food corporations target that area of consumption.

So it is quite obvious the corporations do not care about the rise in obesity because they keep using high-fructose corn syrup in most of the foods consumed by Americans. In another study, George A Bray from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition makes interesting connections in his article “Consumption of High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Beverages May Play a Role in the Epidemic of Obesity” between the rise in obesity and the rising intake of high-fructose corn syrup in America.

His studies show that “the consumption of HFCS increased > 1000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group” (Bray 537). With the rise in consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, the increase of obesity in America connects with these statistics. Bray also concludes that Eisert 6 “collective data suggest[s] that overconsumption of beverages sweetened with HFCS, [or high-fructose corn syrup,] and containing > 50% free fructose and the increased intake of total fructose may play a role in the epidemic of obesity” (542).

Bray’s statistics support Pollan’s beverage assumptions because it goes to show that food corporations are willing to increase high-fructose corn syrup even if the epidemic of obesity increases with its increase in production. Resolution As more people become aware of the obesity epidemic in America, they wish to change their lifestyles in order to be healthy again. Even though these people know what is going on, they still do not change their lifestyles. But they have good reasons, according to Michael Pollan’s reasonings in The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Pollan explains how the food corporations have “push[ed] our evolutionary buttons, fooling the omnivore’s inherited food selection system “ (107). Even though humans are not meant to eat these foods, the sensory apparatus in within humans have evolved to always crave these processed foods. It has even gotten to a point where “people with limited money to spend on food would spend it on the cheapest calories they can find” (Pollan 108). These are perfect examples to why the processed food lifestyle continues, and why the epidemic of obesity continues to increase. So the real question is how does America resolve the epidemic of obesity?

Yes, food corporations are to blame, but they will keep producing processed foods to help their economic success. So as a country, alternatives and powerful influences must be introduced in order to decrease obesity. Michael Pollan’s article “Unhappy Meals” in The New York Times, has lots of certain advice to steer away from the tricks of processed foods and have America move into a healthier lifestyle. He suggests that processed foods imply they are based around important nutrients to help support human health, when in reality it gives the opposite effects to the body.

Eisert 7 Pollan does in fact state that the healthy lifestyle is “harder to do in practice, given the food environment we now inhabit and the loss of sharp cultural tools to guide us through it” (11), but he gives readers simple ways to start a healthy lifestyle. Some of the most simple advice includes “eat[ing] according to the rules of a traditional food culture” (Pollan 12). By eating natural foods that are locally grown and produced, one will know how it is being made and by whom, so there are no mysteries or health questions within these foods.

Lastly, “avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup” (Pollan 11). Just by following these two simple steps, a person can make their health that much better by doing the little things to help themselves. Yes, there are other alternatives, but they become confusing and technical. If a person is simply aware of what is being put into their body, then a healthy lifestyle can be achieved. Even though people are personally trying to become healthier, what about the people that are not?

They need influential and powerful support in order to avoid the obesity epidemic. The government would be the perfect influence to helping change the obesity epidemic. But in Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the government does little to help even though they are aware of the issue: While the surgeon general is raising alarms over the epidemic of obesity, the president is signing farm bills designed to keep the river of cheap corn flowing, guaranteeing that the cheapest calories in the supermarket will continue to be the unhealthiest (108).

So if the government won’t even help, who will? That is where the people come in. Becoming aware of the problem and knowing what a person is putting into their bodies will be the only way to end the increase in the production of processed food, and to furthermore decrease obesity. In conclusion, as processed food production increased, so did obesity because of money hungry food corporations increasing this productivity and government doing nothing to Eisert 8 help stop the unhealthy lifestyles processed food has created.

Through the statistics found in the research it shows how the increases simultaneously occurred at the same time, therefore processed food is a major factor to an increase in obesity. Work Cited Bray , George A, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M Popkin. “Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. ” 2004 American Society for Clinical Nutrition. 79. 4 (2003): 537-543. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.. Ebbeling, Cara, Dorota B Pawlak, and David S Ludwig. “Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure. ” Lancet. 360. 331 (2002): 473–482. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. . Pollan, Michael. Omnivore’s Dilemma. New York City: A Penguin Book, 2006. Print. Pollan, Michael. “Unhappy Meal. ” New York Times. 28 01 2007: 1-12. Web. 19 Apr. 2013. . Research Paper Feedback In reading your research paper, I have considered the following features of the document. Any areas that need work are highlighted oIntroduction – grabs the readers’ attention; introduces the topic; contains a clear, strong thesis oContent – covers the topic fully; supports assertions with information from reliable sources; includes a reference page Organization – is logically organized; ideas are grouped and sequenced to aide the readers’ understanding oParagraph Development—¶s contain specific examples/evidence (in the form of quotes and paraphrases) and explanations oTopic Sentences—introduce the subject of each paragraph; create idea bridges that link ¶s to each other and/or thesis oTransitions—logical connections between ideas are clear & smooth oSentence Fluency—sentences are fluent and varied in construction and length (not choppy); quotes are smoothly incorporated oMLA Format—sources are cited; both inline citations and reference page citations conform to MLA style Proofreading—free of usage, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Here are the grades and what they mean: oAn “A” paper excels in all the areas listed above. The paper covers the topic fully and answers the readers’ questions. The paper uses evidence from multiple, credible sources to back up claims. Sources are cited according to MLA style guidelines. The writing is clearly organized, excellently developed, fluent, and nearly error free. oA “B” paper does a good job in all the areas above. The paper offers a thoughtful, complete response to the prompt. It is clearly organized and well developed.

The sentences are consistently readable and fluent with few usage errors. Areas that need work are highlighted above. oA “C” paper is a competent response to the prompt, but may have weaknesses in one or more of the areas listed above. The weaknesses interfere with the successful communication of the writer’s ideas. Areas that need work are highlighted above. oA paper earns an “NP” if it does not answer the prompt and/or is seriously weak in one or more of the areas listed above. The paper’s weaknesses make it very difficult to read and/or understand. Areas that need work are highlighted above. Comments and Grade:

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