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Killer Fact: 30-40 Percent of Health Care Spending in the U.S. Is Tied to Excess Sugar Consumption

And our political system does nothing but subsidize the problem.
 
 
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A recent report by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) underscores the health care crisis in the world’s most exceptional democracy. The U.S. spends two and a half times per capita more on health care than any other developed country. How does this happen? Take a look at a key player in the paradox: sugar growers. In Florida it is called, Big Sugar. In other states it is beets, maple syrup and most ubiquitous of all: high-fructose corn syrup extracted from an unlimited corn crop heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

“30-40 percent of healthcare expenditures in the USA go to help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar.” (Credit Suisse Report: “Sugar: Consumption At A Crossroads," Sept. 2013)  In Forbes Magazine, contributor Dan Monroe summarized, “Basically, the U.S. healthcare system spends about $1 trillion per year (and possibly more) fighting the effects of excess sugar consumption.”

“Higher health spending per capita tends to be associated with lower mortality rates and higher life expectancy, but this is not the case for the United States." ("OECD: Switzerland tops 34 nations for life expectancy at 82.8," UPI, Jan. 7, 2014) American politics are organized to protect corporate interests that make voters and taxpayers sick, and there is no better example: in a candy bar or a bowl of healthy granola, sugar is the big stake in the heart of American health.

According to a recent United Health Foundation study, “Nine of the 10 least healthy states in the nation had among the 10 worst obesity rates in the country.”  The United Health Foundation  was established by UnitedHealth Group in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. Its ” America’s Health Rankings” rates the most healthy and least health states by evaluating factors such as healthy behaviors, quality of health care, health policy, the presence of diseases and deaths from illnesses.

The study is a good gateway to explore the politics of sugar. Nutrition advocates and environmentalists who have every reason to despair at the corrupting political influence of sugar have never connected the dots for the American public: sugar is not just another crop that receives federal benefits. It is a crop whose profits deform democracy and public health, no matter whose political party is in charge or at what level of government.

70 percent of governors in the study’s “most healthy states” are Democrat. In these states, Democrats are 80 percent of the number of senators. That is not, however, the end of the story.

The website 247 Wall Street parses the difference as an economic matter, divorced from politics:

Money (also) clearly plays a role in determining health. The healthiest states are often among the nation’s wealthiest, and each had a median household income well-above the national median. At the other end, nearly all of the nation’s least healthy states had among the lowest incomes. The three least healthy states — Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana — were also the nation’s three poorest by median income. Residents’ ability to pay for health care, as well as the ability to afford a good education, which can affect good health decisions, are possible reasons for this relationship.

(Behavior plays a major role in determining whether people stay healthy. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St.,) Dr. Reed Tuckson, external clinical advisor to United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings, explained that the relationship between wealth and health could also be the result of lack of optimism poorer people may have. “When you do not have great hope for the future, when you’re living a life that is not as optimistic, people are generally not as inclined to take charge of their overall health. ‘What’s the point,’ people will say. ‘If my life is miserable anyway, why would I do something to make myself live longer?’