Good News—Farm Subsidies Aren't the Cause of the Obesity "Epidemic"

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So says a new study from researchers at the University of California at Davis. To wit:

The claim that farm subsidies have contributed significantly to making Americans fat by making fattening foods relatively cheap and abundant has become accepted as "fact" in the popular media. We show that there is no evidence to support this claim. While many arguments can be made for changing farm subsidies, even entirely eliminating the current programs would not have any significant influence on obesity trends.

However, farm subsidies are still ineffective, wasteful and unfair.

Hat tip to Andy Fell.

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  1. does this include HFCS?

  2. Though one study does not in fact prove that there is no effect, it doesn’t matter. This is one of those memes that just seem to make sense to people, and so they continue thinking it.

    Similar to “fat is bad”, “coffee is bad”, etc.

  3. I’ve never heard of this connection (or lack of, apparently).

    Sounds like an issue created to divert people from the real problem, such as farm subsidies are total bullshit.

    Kind of similar to how everyone’s talking about the pros and cons of legal prostitution with regard to Spitzer, rather than the real problem, namely an egregious abuse of power…

  4. I’ve never heard of this connection (or lack of, apparently).

    Outside of discussing Dave W.’s corn syrup rants, neither have I. I’d always heard that it was McDonald’s, Twinkies, and video games.

  5. I dunno, maybe some people are fat because they like to eat a lot of food and hate to exercise. Just a thought.

  6. I thought that being around fat people made you fat. Wasn’t there a study like that?

  7. I don’t know. I think it was the arbitrary tinkering with the BMI that made me fat.

  8. Check out this fascinating graph. What happened around 1977 to cause obesity rates for women in all age groups to begin skyrocketing?

  9. I don’t know. I think it was the arbitrary tinkering with the BMI that made me fat.

    I’m 5’9″ and 210 pounds of what is mostly solid muscle, with a 33-inch waist (still no six-pack, though). According to the BMI I’m a hog fit for slaughter that will feed a village for five years.

  10. Check out this fascinating graph. What happened around 1977 to cause obesity rates for women in all age groups to begin skyrocketing?

    What is “a change in methodology?”

    DING!

    I’ll take bullshit government studies for $400, Alex…

  11. I’m in great shape, all the fat on me is in my head. It’s what happens when you read Hit & Run all day.

  12. What really pisses me off is that, according to the US Air Force, I should ideally weigh 165 pounds, and no more than 180. Which is fine, if I want to be a “skinny-fat” person with no muscles.

    USAF’s BMI policies may cause me to reconsider my decision to pursue a commission. They seem to want people who specifically don’t lift weights.

  13. Wealth causes obesity.
    That, and sloth.
    And, of course, genetics.
    And the clean, crisp taste of Budweiser, the King of Beers ™.

  14. PapayaSF | March 13, 2008, 4:08pm | #

    Check out this fascinating graph. What happened around 1977 to cause obesity rates for women in all age groups to begin skyrocketing?

    British Punk makes you fat?

  15. I read somewhere that British Punk makes you fat.

  16. I’M FAT!!!!!!!!

    i just did an online BMI calculator and I am a 26.5 which is overweight. I’m 5’11” and 190. I run 3 miles a day every day of the week and lift 5 times a week.

  17. OMG!
    No more of the all-of-us-are-so-muscle-bound-and-are-considered-fat-by-the-BMI (which everyone knows is a horrible measure of health) threads!
    Please, we already know that you are all in terrific shape!

  18. Let’s see. I’m 5’6″, weigh 285, and sit in a chair all day. My BMI is off the chart.

    On the bright side, I make 6 figures and drive a really fast car.

    Live fast, die young (or at least late middle age)

  19. If you want to get really tinfoil-haty, anyone think the Government is trying to weaken us so that the eventual police state will meet less resistance?

  20. Cause Brawndo’s got electrolytes!

  21. Why is this good news? Seems to me it’s neutral or slightly bad news. Not that I really think a “cause of the obesity epidemic” could be found, but on the theoretic possibility of finding the cause of something pretty well universally acknowledged as a bad thing, seems like failure to find it is a loss.

  22. Reinmoose? I’m not musclebound. Oh, I’m and sorry for posting comments. Please make a list of Reinmoose-approved comments from which I may select and then contribute to a particular discussion.

    Then, go fuck yourself.

  23. Jim Bob –
    Every time there was a thread on the subject of obesity, it always turns into the same thing. I pass no judgement on whether or not you or anyone else is muscle-bound. I just ask that… maybe we can talk about something other than how inaccurate a measurement of obesity the BMI is?

    Sorry to have expressed my annoyance with the topic. Blah blah blah, Jim Bob-approved comments, blah blah and right back at-cha

  24. Jim Bob,

    careful with the ‘roid rage.

  25. I have approximately 10% body fat and a BMI of 26. Me and Jim Bob are gonna kick sand in you 98 pound weaklings’ faces.

  26. Reinmoose,

    I’m built like a Greek god carved in low-fat marble ?

    Krieg der Sterne causes obesity? Hmmm, maybe I believe that.

  27. I don’t see how the study could have conclusively found no connection.
    ag subsidies effectively lower the cost of producing hfcs, which means more food companies will use hfcs in their foods. Of course that’s an intuitive conclusion and it may be wrong, but i doubt it.

    “ineffective, wasteful and unfair”
    how about ‘immoral’?
    aren’t they supposed to keep African farmers from being able to compete or something?

  28. Actually, farm subsidies make food more expensive. The goal of farm subsidies is to guarantee an income to farmers, by supporting price levels that end up increasing the cost to the consumer.

    There may be a fattening effect to this, as people subsitute cheaper fatty foods for more expensive proteins. And while farm subsidies guarantee sugar planters a price 10 times the world market price for sugar, the effect is to cause the use of corn syrup, which might be more fattening than sugar.

  29. Sorry, Taktix, if it was just a change in methodology the graph would have a sharp shift at one place, and be more or less the same afterwards. I doubt that they are revising their methodology annually. There’s clearly a trend.

    But I’m disappointed in everyone: no Jimmy Carter jokes yet?

  30. Okay, I did not rtfa but let me see if I get this straight.

    Farm subsidies do not lower the cost of food, or at least not so much that people are eschewing the “right” foods based solely on price.

    Umm, then why in the hell are we subsidizing farmers again?

  31. Gene,
    i might be being dense here, but I don’t understand what you said.
    How do subsidies make food more expensive? If you decrease the cost of doing business, you increase supply right?

  32. Told you already! It’s glandular! Glandular!

  33. Umm, then why in the hell are we subsidizing farmers again?

    1. The Iowa caucuses
    2. The US Senate, where N. Dakota has as many votes as California.

  34. I think the study’s main point is that corn and soybean subsidies contribute much less to excess production of those commodities than does the tariff and quotas on sugar. So, subsidies don’t cause obesity, tariffs do.

    It should be a rule that every study should start off with a sentence explaining where the funding came from. I’d be curious about this one. Probably corn growers or Brazilian sugar growers.

  35. “So, subsidies don’t cause obesity, tariffs do.”

    Darn. I always thought obesity was caused by some mixture of amount you eating and drink (especially bad food), genetics, and amount of exercise.

    I’m just glad to know the government is here to look after me.

  36. Though one study does not in fact prove…

    So many misconceptions about the world could be avoided if people would learn that you shouldn’t start a sentence with these words

  37. What happened around 1977 to cause obesity rates for women in all age groups to begin skyrocketing?

    My first reaction is that obesity, especially among women, started increasing just about the time smoking became unfashionable, but 1977 sounds a little early for that theory.

  38. Though one study does not in fact prove…

    So many misconceptions about the world could be avoided if people would learn that you shouldn’t start a sentence with these words

    Actually, I think that the world would be a better place if people realized that anytime they start a sentence with these words, they should immediately STFU.

  39. So John Mellencamp is no longer to blame?

  40. Jim Bob -Every time there was a thread on the subject of obesity, it always turns into the same thing. I pass no judgement on whether or not you or anyone else is muscle-bound. I just ask that… maybe we can talk about something other than how inaccurate a measurement of obesity the BMI is?

    Without BMI, there is no “obesity epidemic”. And BMI is total 19th century pseudo-science.

    I think the fact that there is no scientific basis whatsoever to our “obesity epidemic”, is a relevent topic of discussion, don’t you?

  41. So John Mellencamp is no longer to blame?

    Oh, there’s plenty of things we can blame on him.

  42. J sub D at 8:06pm

    Actually, I’m fairly sure that you’d find California farmers getting about as much in subsidies as Iowa and N. Dakota.

    If you add in the water programs, probably more.

  43. Mr. Mackey: “Kids, trans-fats are bad, m’kay? You shouldn’t eat trans-fats because they’re bad, M’kay?”

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