On or about 1980, the steady increase in body weight of Americans begins, leading to the obesity crisis described throughout this book. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan began his first term. Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel wining economist, calls President Reagan’s deregulation of the financial sector and the lowering of the top tax rate to 28% as the “Beginning of Inequality.” On Sept. 13, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Violent The Obesity Explosion 417
Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This bill called for $9.7 billion in funding for the building and maintenance of new prisons. The increased severity of sentencing laws increased the incarceration rates in the U.S. to the highest rate in the Western world. This law supplemented harsher sentencing laws that were enacted in the earlier 1970s in response to President Nixon’s War on Crime. Now that we understand all the different aspects of the era of obesity, we can make some informed guesses about why and how an increase in food Calories happened. The food supply did change drastically during the time period and this definitely had an effect. The most notable changes were the increase in the use and consumption of plant oils, which had a major impact on calorie intake. The second most notable change was the increase in consumption of refined grain products, most notable were those made from wheat and corn. The consumption of these refined flours increased calorie intake without increasing fiber intake. The next important change was a slight increase in the consumption of total added sweeteners. Most notable was the change from using refined sugar from cane or beet to sweeteners prepared from corn, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). All of the foods mentioned above, and a few other fat-based products, led to an average increase in energy of about 500 Kcal per person per day. But why did the above changes in consumption of food occur? This is a harder question to answer. I have presented a great deal of data that point to reasons, but most likely one reason is not sufficient, and in fact, the reasons may be different for different people. Of great importance was the knowledge gained by the food industry in how to add flavorings to foods in order to make them super palatable. I retold two stories concerning this, but one only has to go to Michael Moss’ book, Salt, Sugar, and Fat, 1 in order to 418 Joseph L. Dixon
get a wider picture of what the food industry is capable of doing. Also, because thousands of new products were invented, grocery stores needed to increase their square footage footprint in order to sell them all. Also a contributor was income inequality and continued loss of compensation per hour worked, such that Americans had to work more hours at service type jobs and thus did not have the time to perform adequate shopping and the preparation of healthy meals.
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