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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why It's Normal to Be Fat, October 24, 2004
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This review is from: Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Paperback)
Critser is no victim-based advocate calling for lawsuits against fast-food corporations in this incisive, analytical manifesto, which successfully penetrates the underlying causes of America's obesity epidemic. He explains that the obesity rate, which was always stable at around 25%, shot up to 60-65% in the 1980s and he provides a coherent narrative, packed with well-documented statistics, to show the major forces of that obesity spike. He shows that Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture for Nixon, was a key player in making the environment conducive to our being fat. In the 1970's, under Butz's charge, farmers grew more corn to make a cheaper form of sugar, High Frutose Corn Syrup, which metabolizes in far more dangerous ways than regular sucrose. Secondly, he made a deal with Malaysia, allowing them to export palm oil, also called "hog's lard," to America. Palm oil turns out to be a form of trans fat which, with a shelf life of infinity, clogs our arteries. The other enviromental condition that led us down a path of obesity was the Super-Size-Me Philosophy spawned in the fast-food industry. Shrewd business men who wanted greater profits preyed on our psychology and created a new way to make us fat:

1. Disguise our piggishness by making huge bags of fries rather than shaming us into buying two bags.
2. Combine low-profit (hamburgers) with high-profit (soda and fries) foods to create a "value meal."
3. Emphasize price and value over taste and presentation, which they found to their giddiness, made us eat MORE.
4. Banish the shame of gluttony. Create a culture where it's cool to overeat in the same way that it's cool to drive a big SUV and be a huge, conspicuous consumer.

What makes Critser's analysis so refreshing is that even though he points at the environmental hurdles we must face if want to be fit and trim, he always encourages us to educate ourselves and to take responsibility for what we put into our mouths. Reading his book is the first step in that education.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 25, 2009 4:31:32 AM PDT
I believe there is an error in this review. 60 percent of Americans are not obese, although they may be overweight.

Posted on Jan 14, 2010 11:25:24 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 14, 2010 11:25:45 AM PST
Biff says:
I agree with a lot of your review, however I think you missed one key point.

One of the main reasons corn is used instead of sugar is because of the sugar tariff. With this tariff in place, the price of sugar is artificially driven up because of government intervention, making corn more affordable than sugar. Thus the U.S. government is subsidizing the corn industry with the sugar tariff and this policy is one of the key reasons a large percentage of Americans are obese or overweight. If the tariff is removed, producers will start using more sugar rather than corn to sweeten our food.

I'm not sure if this is addressed in this book or not as I haven't read it yet, although I am considering it.
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