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Happy Meals - Why America is Switching Back to a High Fat Diet

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The City of San Francisco and Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) are taking aim at McDonald’s Happy Meal toy-giveaway, but do these arbitrary policing actions appropriately address childhood obesity? Obesity is epidemic in children, as is type II diabetes. Obesity, pre-diabetes, and diabetes have reached unprecedented, dangerous levels in all age groups in the U.S.

In a recent Minnesota Public Radio program, Steve Gardner, litigation director for CSPI, said the Washington DC-based nonprofit is planning to sue McDonald’s because of the sodium and saturated fat content in Happy Meals. But, at the same time, Gardner said CSPI does not have a priority to litigate against blood-sugar-raising commercial breakfast cereals – consumed regularly in over 90 percent of American households.

Closely related metabolic disorders, obesity and diabetes are associated with elevated blood sugar and high insulin levels – not sodium or saturated fat. Only carbohydrates raise blood sugar – especially the sugars and starches in cereal and in other highly processed grain products. While saturated fats brake rising blood sugar, excess high glycemic carbohydrates impair blood sugar control, disrupting homeostasis. 

Also, Gardner of CSPI does not blame 30 years of low fat, carbohydrate-emphasized Dietary Guidelines. Compared to 1980, Americans are consuming nearly 500 additional carb calories per day, much of it sugar and starch. And USDA Secretary Ed Schafer proudly points out that the federal government feeds more people than the top two fast food companies combined (school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC, food stamps, etc). 

 Why, then, is CSPI fingering McDonalds’ toy give-away?

 In fact, CSPI has been a staunch supporter of the official “low fat equals good health” mantra of the U.S. government. In the mid-1970s, during its “Anti-Saturated Fat Attack” against traditional, healthy beef tallow, butter, coconut and palm oil, CSPI was an unrelenting promoter of trans-fat laden hydrogenated soybean oil. A serious CSPI mistake – but no one has sued them!

 If you follow the yellow grease money, you will learn that long term CSPI medical consultant, Jeremiah Stamler, MD, Northwestern University (retired), received very substantial funding from Fleischman’s and Mazola, and as a member of the board of the American Heart Association, was a strong advocate for U.S. made vegetable oil interests.

 All quibbling aside, however, we must slow and reverse obesity and diabetes even as the USDA is about to release the anti-fat 2010 Dietary Guidelines – 70 pages that do not include the words“blood sugar” or “hyperinsulinism” – let alone provide any specific warning about the sugary and starchy foods that promote elevated blood sugar and high insulin.

 Low fat began in 1977 when Senator George McGovern’s bi-partisan Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs – without scientific consensus – recommended a low fat diet for all Americans over age 2, including up to 11 servings of grain everyday. As Americans adopted the new dietary guidelines – restricting fat and eating more carbohydrates – we gained girth plus:    

  • The lifetime risk of diabetes is now 1 in 3 for children born since the year 2000, and today, 25 percent of Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic!
  • Heart disease has not gone down as promised, and the incidence of heart failure has more than doubled since cholesterol lowering drugs were introduced in 1987.
  • Autism has gone from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 110!
  • Debilitating childhood asthma is epidemic….

We set out on this slippery slope of ever expanding chronic disease – the high carb road to ruin – when we started replacing our traditional foods like butter and eggs with highly processed vegetable fats, refined grains, and cereals. Children are eating Pop Tarts and sugary cereals when they should be eating nutritious eggs scrambled or fried in butter.

 “Don’t eat eggs and butter” is a catastrophic mistake. If you cut down on fat you’ve got to eat something and that something has been sugar, starch, and thousands of easily-digested “low fat” grain products, usually made with industrially rancid vegetable grease and high fructose corn syrup, now constituting up to 10 percent of American calories.

The proposed 2010 Dietary Guidelines – like the original low fat 1980 Dietary Guidelines – will only continue to fuel chronic disease. Because 80 percent of diabetics die of heart disease, we are facing an unprecedented surge in diseases of the heart – the number one Medicare expenditure; the number one cause of death.

Without a thorough review of these omitted issues, we will not be able to adequately address and slow these potentially devastating TwinTower epidemics. Once we identify excess carbohydrates and the highly processed vegetable fats as the common denominators of chronic disease, we will then be able to cut carbs, fix our fats, and switch back to America’s traditional high fat diet.    

I want a real Happy Meal please – three eggs scrambled in butter!

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