This article came out after some reading and discussion over a coffee at 5015 Westheimer Road in the Galleria area of Houston, Texas. Enjoy!

Mr. Earl Butz: Father of Your Obesity CrisisMr. Earl Butz: Father of Your Obesity Crisis« click for printable PDF version

You've heard it all before... why you're overweight and what you can do about it.

But maybe it's not all your fault.

A recent report coming out of the UK, traces back the reason why western society - and especially the USA - has gained so much weight over the last decades.

Our weight gain as a nation does not find its roots in greed, gluttony or even lack of exercise. Instead, the finger of blame is directed back to one man in the Nixon administration - Mr. Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture in 1971.

Back in 1971, the two big re-election issues for President Nixon were the Vietnam war and the soaring cost of food. Enter Mr. Butz with grand plans to lower the cost of food via a radical plan to transform the food we eat.

As Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Butz, introduced programs changing the family farm into an industrial enterprise, with focus on one crop in particular: corn.

More corn meant fatter cattle, which resulted in bigger burgers for less. French fries prepared in corn oil also became cheaper and more plentiful.

In fact, as a result of the market reforms put in place by Mr. Butz, American farmers went from the small family farm to large corporations with international markets almost overnight. It was a heady time for farmers - who could see money sprouting out of the ground - and consumers - who saw prices drop and portions increase.

But even more food for less is not the root of today's national obesity problem.

The real problem has its roots in a corn surplus, which started about 5 years later after too many farmers grew too much corn. Even programs introduced by Mr. Butz and his team to pay farmers not to plant corn couldn't stop the excess.

This excess corn is where the real problem started.

Faced with a huge overabundance of corn, Mr. Butz personally flew over to Japan to check out a technology innovation that could save national surplus of corn from going to waste. The Japanese had developed the ability to transform excess corn into a low-cost sweetener on an industrial scale.

The resulting sweetener is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

HCFS opened the floodgates for farmers and food manufacturers, providing a sweetener at two-thirds the cost of sugar.

As a result, our foods became cheaper and sweeter, and a silent revolution was taking place across the nation - we LIKED sweeter food, and our brains told us that we wanted more of it.

Food manufacturers, having a taste for even more profits than just substituting one sweetener for another, turned each of our meals and snacks into a science, engineering each morsel for the best "sweetened" taste.

As consumers, we loved the new products, the lower prices and the increased portion sizes.

At the time there was no national weight problem, and a discussion of the between sweeter foods and weight gain was not even on the radar. Besides, we were a country of "give the consumer what they want", and so our entire society - government, farmers, food manufacturers and consumers - all marched in lock-step to the beat of the policies set by Mr. Butz.

What started as part of a political re-election campaign for President Nixon in 1971 evolved into the triple-headed monster of obesity, heart attacks and diabetes that we face today.

Sadly, we can only look back at our food history with regret. The legacy left by Mr. Butz won't go away unless we now take responsibility and action to mitigate the damage.

So... read your labels, count your calories, watch your sugar intake and - yes - even get some more exercise to offset all the damage done so far. Then, if that's not enough, see your weight loss doctor to get the right kind of professional help.

If you are not yet on the WeightWorks program and want to learn more about how we can help, please complete our online get-acquainted questionnaire. Enter the coupon code "ARTICLE50" and we will take 50% off the cost of an initial doctor consultation to review your situation, make suggestions and answer any questions you may have.

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   - - Yours in health,   The Doctors of WeightWorks

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