Walter E. Williams

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promised, "The U.S. government plans to increase funding to battle obesity and views healthcare reform as an opportunity to encourage better eating habits." Rather than spending money and attacking the food industry, the secretary and others concerned with the health of Americans ought to go after the U.S. Congress. Let's look at it.

According to a study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (May 2009), widespread use of fructose may be directly responsible for some of the ongoing increase in rates of childhood diabetes and obesity. Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases abdominal fat and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese people. The participants in the study who consumed fructose-sweetened food showed an increase of fat cells around major organs including their hearts and livers, and also underwent metabolic changes that are precursors to heart disease and diabetes.

Other studies have linked diets rich in high-fructose corn syrup to elevated risks of high triglycerides (a type of blood fat), fat buildup in the liver and insulin resistance, notes Dr. Gerald Shulman and his colleagues at Yale University School of Medicine.

"This is the first evidence we have that fructose increases diabetes and heart disease independently from causing simple weight gain," said Kimber Stanhope, a molecular biologist who led the UC Davis study, adding, "We didn't see any of these changes in the people eating glucose."

You say, "Williams, sucrose, fructose -- what's the fuss?" Glucose is the sugar sold in 5- or 10-pound bags at your supermarket that Americans have used as a sweetener throughout most of our history. Fructose is a sweetener that has more recently come into heavy use by beverage manufacturers and food processors. You ask, "How come all the fructose use now?"

Enter the U.S. Congress. The Fanjul family of Palm Beach, Fla., a politically connected family, has given more than $1.8 million to both Democratic and Republican parties over the years. They and others in the sugar industry give millions to congressmen to keep high tariffs on foreign sugar so the U.S. sugar industry can charge us higher prices. According to one study, the Fanjul family alone earns about $65 million a year from congressional protectionism.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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