It is well-known that poor Americans are more likely to be overweight or suffer from diabetes; There is a strong negative correlation between household income and both obesity and diabetes. However, this negative correlation has only evolved over the last 30 years, according to researchers in Tennessee and London. Since 1990, the increase in obesity and diabetes was the fastest among the poorest US regions, says Alexander Bentley of the University of Tennessee in the United States. The time also fits with the generations exposed to high fructose corn syrup in food and beverages, says Bentley, the main author of a survey in the journal Palgrave Communications, which is published by Springer Nature.
Experts describe the unprecedented increase in obesity in recent history as the fastest change ever seen in human physiology. Just a century ago obesity was a phenomenon almost unknown to citizens from the United States and other developed countries.
In this study, Bentley and his coworkers analyzed data made available by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Obesity, Recreational Activities, Income and Occurrence of Diabetes. In most cases, this data was collected for about 3,000 US counties. The researchers also based on data collected by the Food Access Research Atlas project. These documented a person's access to vehicles and proximity to supermarkets and large grocery stores, where they could buy affordable and nutritious food.
The analysis shows that in 1990, when the population scale obesity in the United States was about a third of what they are today, there was no correlation between income and obesity or diabetes. By 2015, there was a high likelihood that obesity or diabetes would be typical in the household with lower income. In states like Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia, where average household income was below $ 45,000 a year, 35 percent of the population was overweight. In more wealthy states like Colorado, Massachusetts or California, where households earned an average of 65,000 US dollars a year, one in four citizens were overweight.
"The data point to a development step that was not present in 1990. This negative correlation has evolved steadily in recent decades," explains Bentley. "By 2015, the situation was that members of lower income households had a much greater chance of suffering from obesity and diabetes."
Bentley and his colleagues wonder that overuse and ready access to foods containing high fructose corn syrup can drive obesity levels. Earlier, people's dietary habits contained very little sugar and no refined carbohydrates. Total sugar consumption in the American diet has risen gradually in the 20th century, from 12 percent of US food energy in 1909 to 19 percent in 2000.
"The timing is clear, with the generations of young Americans who use strong fructose corn syrup in foods that predict a similar increase in obesity as they grown up," Bentley notes.
High fructose corn syrup has been used in American food since 1970. By year 2000, every person in the US consumes on average about 27 kg (60 pounds) of that a year, which is about half of their annual total sugar intake. Majssirup is the most important sweetener in soft drinks. In 2016, the average US household used 7 per cent. And low-income households spent 9 per cent. Of their income on soft drinks.
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