More than 60 percent of Americans are now overweight, according to recent reports. And this escalating phenomenon, which the surgeon general has deemed an â€œepidemic of obesity,â€ serves as the subject of Greg Critserâ€™s new book, â€œFat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World.â€ According to Greg, a leading health and obesity journalist, about 30 years ago the United States greatly increased its corn production to satisfy both the changing tastes of the American public and the thenâ€“agriculture secretary Earl Butz, who wanted to lower U.S. food prices by ending restrictions on trade and growing. The resulting abundance of cheap corn inspired Japanese scientists to invent high-fructose corn syrup, a soon-to-be-ubiquitous sweetener that made food look and taste appealing but also triggered fat storage. As Greg explains, these factors, as well as the introduction of palm oil, were only exacerbated by the explosion of fast-food restaurants and the resulting popularity of super-size â€œvalueâ€ meals over healthier, more modest portions.
As further research indicates American children are often the ones most affected by obesity. Beyond the fact that many high-fructose and fast-food offerings are specifically targeted to the youth market, snacking has increasingly been embraced by parents over the past three decades. In addition, many school-lunch programs place more of an emphasis on institutional budgets and costs than on the nutritional value of their offerings. Nevertheless, Greg is quick to point out that the â€œobesity epidemicâ€ is not an inevitability. In fact, he concludes, it can largely be avoided by sitting down together to eat simple, nutritious meals as a family.
â€œFat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the Worldâ€ (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)