Documentary Exposes How Sugar and Our Food System Fuels Obesity

Story at-a-glance -

  • Everything you have been told about diet and exercise for the past 30 years may be wrong
  • No amount of exercise will reverse the obesity epidemic if the modern food system is not fixed
  • By far, the greatest factor fueling the childhood obesity epidemic is excess dietary sugar, which may be eight times as addictive as cocaine
  • Contrary to recent media reports claiming victory in the fight against obesity, rates for children in the “severely obese” category have increased over the past 14 years
  • The “calories in, calories out” myth continues to be circulated by the media, food industry, regulators, and many healthcare professionals

By Dr. Mercola

In February, a study published in JAMA by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared that obesity rates among two- to five-year olds declined by 43 percent in the past decade, dropping from 14 percent in 2003 to eight percent in 2012. Obesity rates for other age groups were said to have "stabilized."1

The findings were broadcast on all of the nation's major news stations and in most major newspapers, with many claiming "victory" in the fight against childhood obesity.

The celebration was short-lived, however. In April, another report was published that painted a very different picture, this one in JAMA Pediatrics.2 Interestingly, both studies used the same National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data. The difference was that the April study included another four years' worth of data (1999 to 2012).

This team of researchers found that severe obesity among children has actually increased over the past 14 years. Severely obese children are the ones most likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic health problems.

Clearly, the federal anti-obesity campaign is NOT working, even though the US government would love you to think their efforts are paying off. Despite extensive scientific evidence about the real cause of obesity (i.e., the food system), public policy has not changed, and many people are fed up with the status quo.

As a society, we cannot simply exercise our way out of this epidemic. Don't misunderstand me—I am not saying that exercise isn't important, but it's not the entire solution. 

A Flawed Formula

You've heard it now for 50 years. When it comes to your weight, "calories in must equal calories out." "Eat less and exercise more." "A calorie is a calorie is a calorie." The problem is that this formula doesn't work, as evidenced by America's ever-expanding waistline.

Obesity rates in the US have increased at the same rate as gym memberships. Between 1980 and 2000, Americans doubled their fitness club memberships. However, during the same period, their obesity rates ALSO doubled.

A decade later, two out of three Americans are either overweight or obese. Obesity has become the number one form of malnutrition in the country, and no group has been hit harder than our children.

We're seeing obesity in six-month-olds, strokes in eight-year-olds, heart attacks in 20-year-olds, and some 30-year-olds require renal dialysis to stay alive. Teens are now getting gastric bypass surgeries. What used to be called "adult onset diabetes" is now more often called "type 2 diabetes," as it is no longer reserved for adults. What is wrong with this picture? It's the food.

Sugar Loads the Gun... Industry Pulls the Trigger

Instead of eating whole foods—real foods—the contemporary American diet typically consists mostly of sugar, highly processed grains, and a montage of chemicals that are anything but food. Children are surrounded by these fake foods every day, which have a very different effect on their bodies than real food.

The idea that "a calorie is a calorie" is a myth that's been disproven by science. Refined, processed sugar, especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is very hard on your liver and most of it is stored as body fat. Eighty percent of the foods lining grocery store shelves today contain extra sugar—and it adds up to disease.

This excess sugar is at the heart of the metabolic dysfunction that's driving obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and many of the other chronic conditions so rampant today. Yet, this is the opposite of what we are told by the media and countless so-called nutrition professionals.

Instead of placing blame where blame is due—with the food industry and its failed oversight—the blame is placed on fat people, tagged as lazy, unmotivated, and lacking in willpower or moral fortitude. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sugar has actually been found to be eight times as addictive as cocaine!3

The US food system is taking an enormous toll on America's mental and physical health, as well as the economy. Seventy-five percent of our health care dollars go to the treatment of chronic metabolic disease. The statistics provided by reveal the gravity of this problem:

  • If you drink one to two sugar-sweetened beverages per day, you have a 26 percent higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes
  • A 20-ounce bottle of coke contains the equivalent of 17 teaspoons of sugar. Just one soda per day raises your child's chance of obesity by 60 percent
  • Between 1977 and 2000, Americans doubled their daily sugar intake. In 2012, Americans were each consuming an average of 130 pounds of sugar per year
  • At the current rate, 95 percent of all Americans will be overweight or obese within 20 years
  • By 2050, one of every three Americans will have type 2 diabetes

Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside

Is your child thin in spite of how he eats? Do you think, because he looks healthy, you can rest easy that his "strong constitution" or perhaps good genes have spared him from the effects of a suboptimal diet? Well, don't relax just yet... looks can be deceiving. Your child may be TOFI: "thin on the outside, fat on the inside." MRIs are now revealing that even thin people (kids included) are accumulating unhealthy amounts of visceral fat around their internal organs.

Visceral fat is the worst kind of fat for your health, and if you have excess, you are prone to the same increased health risks as obese people. In fact, most "TOFI" kids are pre-diabetic. Statistically, up to 40 percent of "thin" people have excess visceral fat and elevated insulin levels. When you do the math, the numbers are dizzying: the majority of Americans now suffer from metabolic syndrome—51 percent!

School Lunches Hijacked by the Fast Food Industry

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a call for a 50 percent reduction in sugar consumption, but the sugar lobby with its immense power and influence has thwarted every effort toward this end. There is too much money involved. The US government's motivation to better public health is questionable... and rather schizophrenic. For example, on one hand, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls for limiting your sugar intake. On the other hand, the government has allocated more than eight billion dollars in farm subsidies for corn-based sweeteners since 1995. So, the US government is essentially subsidizing the obesity epidemic. And these are the folks who are setting school lunch standards for your child.

As a result of school lunch funding cuts, the fast food industry has fully overtaken school lunch programs. In 2006, 80 percent of all high schools operated under exclusive contracts with soda companies such as Coca Cola, and by 2012, more than half of all US school districts were serving fast food. Public pressure to improve the nutritional value of school lunches has resulted in some ridiculous guidelines, such as declaring French fries and pizza as "vegetables"—clearly devised to protect fast food profits and not your child's health.

Perhaps this is why health insurance companies are investing billions of dollars into fast food company stock! Not only is your child's brain being hijacked by these addictive processed foods, their healthy eating habits are continuously sabotaged by junk food ads. Kids watch an average of 4,000 food-related ads every year, or about 10 per day. Studies show that children eat considerably more when they see food ads on TV. Yet, efforts to limit the marketing of junk food to children continue to be shamelessly thwarted by the sugar industry. Whenever threatened with regulation, the industry reignites the "bigger government" argument, painting regulators as "food cops" sent out to snatch away your freedom of choice. Once distracted by this hot button topic, the real issue—your child's health—has been lost.

Processed food manufacturers and government regulators have a lot to answer for, as they refuse to remove harmful ingredients from your foods. Besides enormous amounts of sugar, American food products are loaded with ingredients that have been banned in other countries, such as trans fats, artificial sweeteners, GE ingredients, and glyphosate. If we continue down this path, the health of our children and our children's children looks pretty grim.

How to Get REAL About Food

Politicians need to take on the food industry with the force required to promote real change, rather than sugarcoating the message. They need to name names. This will not be easy, but it's necessary if we are to turn the tides for future generations.  Many people, such as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, are not waiting for government action—and YOU shouldn't either. It's time for you to take matters into your own hands. Cook and eat real food. Vote with your wallet!

You have the power to lead your children by example, which is one of the most effective teaching tools there is. First and foremost, we need to teach children what "real food" actually is. If you're unsure about how to get your family on the right track, my optimized nutrition plan offers a step-by-step guide to feeding your family right. You can find even more help in my book, Generation XL: Raising Healthy, Intelligent Kids in a High-Tech, Junk-Food World. Ten of the most powerful health strategies are summarized below. By integrating these into your family's daily life, your children will learn how to make better lifestyle choices for themselves, which will help them grow into healthier, happier adults.

  1. Proper food choices: Focus your diet on whole, ideally organic, unprocessed or minimally processed, and non-GMO foods. For the best nutrition and health benefits, eat a good portion of your food raw. Avoid refined sugar, especially processed fructose. I believe the two primary keys for successful weight management are restricting carbohydrates (sugars and grains) and increasing your consumption of healthful fats. Examples of healthful fats include:
  2. Olives and olive oil Coconuts and coconut oil Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
    Raw nuts, particularly macadamia Organic pastured egg yolks Avocados
    Grass-fed meats Palm oil (make sure it's sustainably raised) Unheated organic nut oils
  3. Intermittent Fasting: Recent studies show that intermittent fasting can provide a number of health benefits, such as boosting your metabolism, stabilizing blood sugar, optimizing metabolic hormones (including insulin and leptin), reducing inflammation, improving blood pressure, and increasing your lean body mass. There are several types of intermittent fasting to choose from, so I recommend experimenting to see what style works best for you.
  4. Regular exercise: Along with core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching, I highly recommend Peak Fitness exercises two or three times a week. High-intensity interval-type training boosts human growth hormone (HGH), which is essential for optimal health, strength, and vigor. HGH also helps you optimize your weight and build lean body mass.
  5. Stress management: Your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical and mental disease. Meditation, prayer, social support, yoga, and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain mental equilibrium. You may choose to learn a tool such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, sometimes hidden, emotional blocks.
  6. Drink plenty of pure clean water.
  7. Take care for your microbiome: About 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut. Research is mounting that beneficial bacteria affect your health in a myriad of ways, including reducing inflammation, eliminating toxins, producing vitamins, benefiting your mood, and helping you to lose weight. The easiest, most cost-effective way to optimize your gut flora is to routinely incorporate traditionally fermented foods into your diet.
  8. Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible: This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
  9. Get adequate restorative sleep: Sleep deprivation can disrupt your metabolism and hormone production. Recent research shows that poor-quality sleep can have a significant role in metabolic disorders, including obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
  10. Ground yourself to the earth. When you walk or stand barefoot, free electrons are transferred from the earth into your body, and this grounding effect is one of the most potent antioxidants we know of. Grounding this way (also called "earthing") reduces pain and inflammation, improves blood flow, improves sleep, and has a number of other reported benefits.