NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Government Makes Us Fatter

January 9, 2013

The government, with its accomplices in the food lobby, has helped to make and keep us fat. Through subsidies and misguided food suggestions, Congress, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have made it more difficult for Americans to make smarter dietary decisions, says Jenna Robinson, director of outreach at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

  • Americans spend $33 billion on weight loss products and services.
  • Sixty-five percent of adults are overweight.
  • The prevalence of obesity increased from 14.5 percent in 1980 to 30.5 percent today.

One reason for why this is the case is that the government spreads misinformation about healthy eating. For example, in 1982 the government told Americans to reduce fat consumption from 40 percent to 30 percent of daily intake, according to the food pyramid. However, this resulted in Americans eating more carbohydrates, which have contributed to the increase in obesity rates.

Even more disturbing, the government's recommendations have the effect of reducing the responsibility of the individual to make individualized health plans. Standards set forth by the government are often misleading and incorrect.

In addition, government health recommendations crowd-out advice from private nutrition groups because they can't compete against claims from an "official" source. The Atkin's Diet, which proved to be very effective, was dismissed as a gimmick by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Moreover, the government creates confusion about what is healthy and what is not. For example, it has gone back and forth about whether butter or margarine is healthier, and whether eggs or certain types of fish are good for you.

Also concerning is the subsidies the government provides to farmers to produce highly processed foods. Farmers that grow crops like corn and rice get money to produce their crop in abundance. As a result, food companies can afford cheap goods, like corn, to process into high fructose corn syrup. Because of how cheap it is, high fructose corn syrup has been used in a variety of foods ranging from bread to vegetables, taking away a lot of nutritional value in the process.

Source: Jenna Robinson, "How Government Makes Us Fatter," The Freeman, December 28, 2012.


Browse more articles on Government Issues