Colonialism and The American Diet

Jill Richardson writes on Alternet:

It is hardly news that the United States faces epidemic health problems linked to poor diets. Nearly two out of every five Americans are obese. But according to a press release from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, “The West is now exporting diabetes and heart disease to developing countries, along with the processed foods that line the shelves of global supermarkets. By 2030, more than 5 million people will die each year before the age of 60 from non-communicable diseases linked to diets.”

De Schutter, whose work usually focuses on ending hunger, just published a new report saying, “The right to food cannot be reduced to a right not to starve. It is an inclusive right to an adequate diet providing all the nutritional elements an individual requires to live a healthy and active life, and the means to access them.” In other words, the right to a healthful diet must be included in the human right to food. And, as the unhealthy diets already common in the United States spread to poorer nations, so do the health problems associated with those diets. However, unlike wealthy nations, poorer nations are not equipped to deal with the health consequences via medicine, making preventable diet-related health problems more deadly.

While the poor around the world face hunger, for those who have enough to eat in non-industrialized nations, traditional diets are quite healthy. In Kenya, for example, peasant farmers subsist on a stiff corn porridge called ugali eaten with a variety of green vegetables, beans, and perhaps some pumpkin. Peasants in Bolivia may dine on potatoes, quinoa and other grains, corn, sweet potato, and other Andean roots and tubers. Mexicans combine corn tortillas and beans to provide complete protein. A Filipino family may eat pinakbet, a stew of local vegetables flavored with bagoong, a Filipino fish sauce …

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  • emperorreagan

    The combination of American corporate agriculture and free trade agreements has been a disaster.  It destroys traditional communities, traditional agriculture, and brings the rest of the world on board with our disastrous ideas on nutrition (or, what industry groups have dictated to the FDA as acceptable). 

  • Sumikinarumon

    The number one reason why people didn’t die of diabetes and other “managed” diseases that kill if not properly taken care of is because third world countries do not generally have the technology or the medical infrastructure to diagnose and treat people.

    “We don’t measure the rates of diabetes in the third world” =/= “we don’t have diabetes in the 3rd world”

    Also, obesity statistics are overblown at best and basing them on the non-scientifically derived BMI (which has been lowered several times at the bequest of the diet and weight loss industry), is misleading at best.

    The main problem that I see is that people hate LOOKING at fat people.  Most fat people that I know of are living long, long lives in the first world because while people don’t LIKE looking at obese people, most of them can get the treatment they need if they have a disease (although doctors are working hard to fat shame them right the fuck out of their offices, leading to increased mortality among the obese), and due to this, they can stay around, showing off their “unsightly” fat rolls to everyone around them. *rolls eyes*

    And then the government and the health care industry turns around and tells us that WE ARE ALL LIVING TOO DAMN LONG and WHY DON’T WE JUST DIE ALREADY!  Something tells me that they’d be a lot quieter about the whole “obesity problem” if it was actually directly related to killing people off “naturally”.

    Let’s face it.  The health care industry is run by insurance companies that are obsessed with their for-profit shareholders, not obsessed with providing true comprehensive health care.  It’s also heavily infiltrated and subsidized by the diet and weight loss industry, which, contrary to the misnomer of how it calls itself, makes money off of people yo-yoing up and down in size because this keeps them coming back perpetually.

    It has been scientifically proven in many cases that homeostasis (staying the same weight in adulthood) is FAR HEALTHIER even if you’re fat than losing a bunch of weight and fucking up your metabolism and then eventually gaining it back.  The National weight loss registry only keeps a fraction of the people who ever diet, and most of those people must make it a full time job to keep off their weight loss of 10 pounds OR LESS.  That is not the difference of a 200 pound person going down to 110 pounds, and even “weight loss surgery” is basically “surgically induced starvation” and it only works for a few years (the honeymoon phase) and the body compensates and packs on the pounds, only now the person’s body has been surgically destroyed and they will generally have a life expectancy of maybe 10 years (BECAUSE OF THE SURGERY/MALNUTRITION FROM THE SURGERY).

    Fuck this shit.  You know what’s the problem?  People who want to make money off of making you hate and fear your body.  That’s what the problem is.

    • Jin The Ninja

      “Fuck this shit.  You know what’s the problem?  People who want to make
      money off of making you hate and fear your body.  That’s what the
      problem is.”

      so multinational corps exporting factory processed foods, and driving up the cost of traditional foods so that the only option is pre packaged processed foods high in fat, sodium and sugar- is linked to body image?

      • Sumikinarumon

        Correlation does not necessarily imply causation.  We like to talk about how much “healthier” diets are in parts of the world where people suffer from MALNUTRITION simply because they tend to be THINNER.  The way that the Western world in general perceives the health of the Third World and Second World is one of entitlement and ignorance.  

        People over there aren’t thin because they WANT to be, they’re thin (and short, and more likely to have brain damage) from constant and pervasive malnutrition and food insecurity.

        Many other countries have processed foods that do not come from the US as well.

        Plus, if you look at the 40′s and 50′s all the way through the early 80′s in the US, processed foods reigned supreme without any of the “obesity epidemic” bullshit being brought into the forefront of the cultural consciousness.

        At least let’s call a spade a spade here.  If the weight loss and dieting industry makes a ton of money off of keeping us yo-yoing up and down for life (and often retaining/gaining more and more weight because of it), then the problem isn’t that companies are sending Cheetos to the Third World.

        And as other countries get better medicine, health care services, etc, of COURSE you’re going to see an increase in the diagnosis of “managed” diseases such as diabetes.  Because these diseases, when not treated, lead to DEATH.  Childhood diabetes doesn’t exist in many Third World nations because the CHILD DIES BEFORE IT GETS DIAGNOSED.  Adult onset diabetes just goes through its various stages (blindness, neuropathy, etc) and then the person DIES in the Third World without anyone knowing what it is.  Both Type 1 and Type 2 have strong genetic components but Type 1 tends to be brought on by autoimmune response (often of an unknown origin) while Type 2 tends to develop due to a host of genetically predisposed characteristics.

        Where I live, the reported rape rate is higher than anywhere in the country, but perhaps that is because there is an entire network of a safe space for men and women who suffer this foul crime to report it, not because rapes are more common here.  

        When you look at data, you need to analyze carefully the methods and the possible reasons for it.  If you simply say that “A MUST CAUSE B” then that’s bad research.  

        There are more than just “OBESITY R BAD and PROCESSED FOOD R BAD” factors going on here.  And while I would love to find a simple answer to a complicated problem, that’s just not how the world works.

        • Jin The Ninja

          so processed food isn’t bad, and obesity isn’t caused by an american diet rich in starch and factory farmed protein. and exporting that diet through multi nationals isn’t a problem. got it.

          • Hadrian999

            processed foods are bad because they taste like shit, the problem with the American diet is that we eat everyday like we used to eat once a week, and we don’t live the lifestyle we did when these classic american styles of food were created, what you eat when you work hard 6 days a week on a farm is much different than what you should eat when you pilot a desk and push paper

          • emperorreagan

            Well, that, and the fact that the “value-added” portion of processed food is basically a nutritional negative.

          • Sumikinarumon

            Food is not “good” or “bad”.  These are MORAL judgements being attached to objective items.  There are certainly more nutritious foods and less nutritious foods, but even the most organic, free-range food item is going to have positives and negatives (I grew up eating and canning food that my family grew together, so I do know a good deal about this).  I did not eat a ton of processed foods growing up, but I did eat a few as did my siblings.  I have always been a chunky person, regardless of exercise and eating habits (I have always been active in sports).  My siblings have eaten similarly, but they are both of normal and even thin size.  And that’s within my actual family, who are genetically similar!

            I know of many thin people who eat tons of processed foods without very many physical or health-based problems that come of it.  I know of many fat people who only eat organic, but are still fat and, yes, even develop health problems!  Human biodiversity is not just a question of eating a certain way and everyone will look the same.  Our genetics, our environments, and our behaviors are all intertwined.  To say that it’s only ever one thing is not only ignorant, it’s dangerous.

            Finally, we are all mortal.  The idea of eating “morally superior” foods isn’t going to make you live forever or guarantee your health for the rest of your life.  To say otherwise is patently wrong.

          • Sumikinarumon

            Way to totally misunderstand my point, but hey, whatever works for you.

          • Jin The Ninja

            your point sure didn’t.

        • Wankwankwank

          Are you fat by any chance?

    • Calypso_1

      When was the last time you had to medically manage someone who was morbidly obese?

  • eyeoftheaxis

    Bangkok streets are filled with the aromas of great tasting food from the
    local street vendors, and still you can not escape the burger clown.

    http://i.imgur.com/y05ea.jpg

    • Jin The Ninja

       well it IS on khaosan afterall…

    • DeepCough

      Bourdain should go to Bangkok and engage in a little “punching the clown.”

  • Happy Cat

    That pic makes me want a cheezeburger!!!

    • Hadrian999

       that pic reminds me of food from the short order line at the D-fac in my army days, heth will back me up i bet

  • JaceD

    This is embarrassing to admit but that looks like the dinner I just had. Hey, freshly caught safood gets abit dull after every night okay?

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