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Iron Fortification, Disease, and Obesity: An Update with Data Refinements

2013-04-29-wonderbread

Why does fortified food so strongly correlate with poor health and obesity in developed countries? After our 6,000 word post hashing out the possibilities, we thought it was time to simplify the message. Quite simply it’s because fortification promotes an imbalance of micronutrients that would otherwise not happen when consuming a diet of whole foods. It is a government policy that does far more harm in developed nations than good.

We’ve managed to boil this concept down to a short Tweet-worthy 6-minute read (1,400 words) in a recent article Richard posted on Medium.com, Did Food Enrichment Cause The Obesity Epidemic? It’s an abridged version of our 6,000 word post on the subject, Iron, Food Enrichment and The Theory of Everything (with over 2,000 shares—keep it going) and follow-up post, How Wheat Went From Superfood To Liability.

The Timing of Fortification Increases

When we were researching our Iron Theory article, we demonstrated the drastic rise in iron intakes with this chart:

However, we came across references to FDA hearings and media articles such as this one where the FDA was criticized for raising iron levels up to 40mg per pound of flour during the early-to-mid-1970s—at the tail end of the Nixon administration, and pushed through by Senator George McGovern.

To put this iron increase in perspective, a 2012 study showed that a fortification level of only 13mg/pound (30mg/kg) of flour—which is roughly what US iron fortification levels were at during the 1950s and 1960s—resulted in increased oxidative stress for non-anemic men. This obviously calls the safety of even low level of iron fortification into question. Obviously fortification of flour at 40mg/pound was a very risky experiment.

The FDA’s decision to drastically increase iron fortification levels from ~13mg/pound of flour to 40mg/pound of flour was later rescinded due to an outcry from iron toxicologists. In our article, we focused on the 1983 FDA final ruling of 20mg of iron per pound of flour, mainly because we didn’t find much evidence for the 1970s implementation. However, we recently uncovered two charts that show that the 1970s ruling to 40mg/pound of flour was fully implemented for a few years across the United States.

fortification-changes iron-changes

 

As you can see, we the people are lab rats in a nation-wide experiment. Fortification certainly didn’t making us healthier than non-fortified countries. No, the opposite actually happened. It appears to be harming us by exacerbating a micronutrient imbalance and promoting pathogenic gut profiles, even at low doses.

The timing of these charts appears to explain why one study estimated that there is a ten-year lag from fortification increases to increased incidence of obesity.

A Clarification on “Mandated” Fortification

While the UK and Canada do require certain products to be fortified, the FDA does not actually “mandate” fortification, but rather strongly suggests that manufacturers fortify products, and the FDA publishes “guiding principles” for the levels and labeling of fortified products. However, it is unclear (to us) if states that passed the Newfoundland Law do still in fact require fortification in certain products. Nevertheless, enriched food is ubiquitous in the American diet. However, this may be good news for Americans as consumers will have the option to demand non-fortified products if the word gets out and people realize that their health improves by avoiding fortified foods. Fortification costs money, and manufacturers will gladly eliminate the costs of fortification if consumers want to avoid it. All it takes is for Americans to become aware of the problems with fortification. You can help by spreading the word via the share links at the bottom of the post. Far & Wide, if you please.

Links to Refined Oils

Traditionally, many scientists and health gurus have pointed out that refined oils—like those from soy that are high in linoleic acid (LA)—a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid—have been linked to obesity epidemic. We believe this fits perfectly into the exacerbation of micronutrient imbalances found in obesity. We found evidence that a diet high in refined oils might just make you absorb lots of iron, which in excess can promote oxidative stress in organs and tissues. The following chart from this article shows the trend.

vegetable-oil-consumption

Obese people have iron deposits in their brains, and iron deposits in their adipocytes, but they can appear to be anemic. Curiously, researchers don’t know why populations with the highest iron intakes have the most obesity, the most metabolic issues, as well as disruptions of iron homeostasis that come with those chronic diseases. But, with the help of Dr. Jane Karlsson, PhD—who has spent over 30 years reading biomedical literature, full time—we are working on a plausible and testable mechanism that we hope to reveal soon. The end result is that the pieces of the biological mystery are neatly fitting together, as you would expect from a jigsaw puzzle that is nearing completion. All of the pieces are falling right into place.

What does this mean? It means the biology as a whole fits together—just as you’d expect. But not as the molecular biologists of 30 years ago expected. They thought Richard Dawkins was right and biology was messy, because of evolution. You could see the mess everywhere, in epidemics of degenerative disease which were, they thought, due to faulty genes. Biotech and the human genome project was advertised as the technology that would save humanity.

Actually, this idea that genes were mainly responsible for modern disease had actually been tested, and shown to be incorrect. Nearly 100 years ago, Sir Robert McCarrison, lectured before the Royal College of Surgeons on the spectacularly healthy Hunza in northern India (now Pakistan), and did experiments on rats to find out whether their health was due to their diet. In his experiments, rats on a Hunza diet were just as healthy as the Hunza—free of all modern illnesses. Whereas, rats that consumed a refined and modern Western diet became sick and diseased.

McCarrison’s findings were echoed by Dr. Weston A. Price (1870—1948), a dentist who found that, regardless of macronutrient intake, healthy traditional cultures avoided degenerative diseases by eating wide variety of whole foods and became sick and diseased on refined foods. And it was further explained by Dr. William A. Albrecht, PhD (1888—1974)—the Father of Modern Soil Science— who established the concept that it takes a universal balance of minerals in soil to have healthy plants, and healthy plants to have healthy animals (or people).

Quite literally, the unifying principle between these great thinkers is that it’s the refinement and unbalanced consumption of micronutrients that promote many modern diseases. Perhaps this isn’t all that surprising, since all metabolic cycles depend on a similar balance of these micronutrients. Stay tuned.

Weight Loss Was Easier 30 Years Ago

The evidence correlating fortification and obesity continues to pile up. Recently The Atlantic published an article on a recent paper on “Why It Was Easier to Be Skinny in the 1980s.” It really isn’t the best article, but it explains that people didn’t need to exercise as much back then to lose weight. Nobody knows why. The authors hypothesize on the many factors that could explain this paradox, but the scientists they interviewed completely missed fortification as a possible reason. Prescription drug abuse and antibiotics are offered as a reason, but the authors did not realize that the drug/obesity theory is easily debunked by populations like France. France has the highest level of prescription drug abuse in the world, and is addicted to antibiotics, yet it has one of the lowest obesity rates of any developed nation.

No one seems to notice that fortification is the one variable that can explain virtually every paradox. We believe fortified individuals are now far more saturated with a mineral imbalance that is now much harder to reverse than it was 30 years ago.

Gorilla Diets and Fortified Food

Finally, we thought we would mention an old story that is relevant to all this. In 2011, it was reported that gorillas at zoos were succumbing to human diseases like heart disease. Nobody could figure out why, especially considering that gorillas were eating a fortified diet that gave lots of the nutrients they needed. The researchers believed that the heart disease could be stopped by switching captive gorillas back to their natural diets in the wild. A surprising thing happened:

Captive Gorillas Succumbing to Human Disease (2011)

“Going back to this natural diet has changed gorilla behavior. Before, gorillas only ate during a quarter of their day because the food was so packed with nutrients. Now at Cleveland, they spend 50-60 percent of their day eating which is the same amount as in the wild. With all this extra eating, the gorillas have doubled their caloric intake, yet at the same time have dropped 65 pounds each. This brings their weight more in line with their wild relatives.”

Yes, the fortified zoo biscuits were promoting chronic disease and weight gain in the animals. Once zookeepers replaced their biscuits with whole plants, the gorillas regained their health and stopped a lot of behaviors associated with captivity (pulling hair out, aggression, etc). It’s yet another nail in the coffin of fortified foods.

While we continue to outline the mechanism between micronutrient imbalance and obesity, please take a moment to Tweet and Like the condensed and abridged article on Medium.com.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

43 Comments

  1. Matthew on October 8, 2015 at 13:29

    Duck Dodgers posts are great, but blannnnddd…

    We need some of that wonderful RN Facebook wisdom mixed in…

    THIS:
    In other words, they use the dynamics of markets (curtail supply and prices rise) in order to defeat FREE markets. They can’t compete with free markets at the wages and prices they wish, so they use the force of state to make it artificial.

    MEETS THIS:
    The evidence correlating fortification and obesity continues to pile up. Recently The Atlantic published an article on a recent paper on “Why It Was Easier to Be Skinny in the 1980s.” It really isn’t the best article, but it explains that people didn’t need to exercise as much back then to lose weight. Nobody knows why. The authors hypothesize on the many factors that could explain this paradox, but the scientists they interviewed completely missed fortification as a possible reason.

    You think they all really don’t know? Or they all CHOOSE not to notice. 🙂

    • Duck Dodgers on October 8, 2015 at 14:52

      Heh… if you thought this was bland, just wait until next time when we try to explain the difference between HIF1α and HIF2α. I’m already crying. 🙂

  2. Bb on October 8, 2015 at 23:47

    I often think that Duck is actually Richard himself but he chooses to put on his voice of reason.

  3. sassysquatch on October 9, 2015 at 03:13

    DD is the Buddha of nutrition. It just points the way, it’s up to you to find the path.

  4. John on October 9, 2015 at 09:13

    The Atlantic article seemed unconvincing to me, in that it was based on survey data. Is it not well established that heavier people under report consumption relative to leaner people?

    Am I missing something otherwise?

    • Duck Dodgers on October 9, 2015 at 09:55

      We didn’t think it was a great article to begin with. Only that it pointed out that there might be other factors besides CICO.

      There is some other loose evidence that other factors are involved. For instance, one glaring bit of evidence comes from food intake data.

      If you look at the current FAOSTAT food supply data between France and the US, on average the French only consume ~6% less calories than we do in the US.

      The French are not known to be overly active or partake in intense exercise (beyond cultural activities). So, does a 6% energy intake explain why we are the most obese country and they have one of lowest levels of obesity of any developed nation? No. Something is not right.

      Now, let’s take a look at the FAOSTAT calorie intake per capita data during the 1980s-90s obesity epidemic…

      FAOSTAT: France, US : Food Supply (kcal/capita/day), 1980–2000

      Pretty amazing. According to FAOSTAT, when the US was having rapidly rising obesity, France was actually consuming more calories per day than American were! And towards the end of the obesity epidemic, we were only consuming 100 more calories per capita/day than the French.

      Now, we have to take this data with a grain of salt. Although FAO tracks food waste, this data is based on commodities data and it’s unclear how accurate or representative it may be of actual intakes.

      But still, I can’t find much evidence that we consume significantly more food than the French when we were having our obesity epidemic. And the data suggests France was actually consuming more calories than us when we were becoming morbidly obese. This all implies that something else is causing obesity—not pure CICO.

      In our upcoming post, we will show how the scientific literature explains how a mineral imbalance (exacerbated by fortification) can promote rapid adipocyte formation. So, hopefully that will offer an explanation for this paradox.

      • John on October 9, 2015 at 10:11

        Thanks for the detailed reply.

        “But still, I can’t find much evidence that we consume significantly more food than the French when we were having our obesity epidemic.”

        Occam’s Razor – evidence besides the obesity itself?

        I will be interested to see the literature RE: mineral imbalances promoting rapid adipocyte formation, and your post relating to it.



      • Duck Dodgers on October 9, 2015 at 12:30

        “Occam’s Razor – evidence besides the obesity itself?”

        Well, pretty much meaningless unless you know what causes it. Nobody knows. CICO doesn’t appear to explain the stark differences between the populations. But, I’m willing to acknowledge that the FAO data might be wonky. If you know of a better source, let’s hear it.



      • John on October 10, 2015 at 07:31

        I don’t know of a better source. FAO data may be the best but does that make it good for this purpose?



      • Duck Dodgers on October 10, 2015 at 08:32

        Why not? It’s just a loose observation that suggests we might be on to something. We are going to demonstrate an explanation for these paradoxes. Far better than anybody else is doing by just shrugging shoulders and blaming it on things that don’t hold water across various populations.



  5. zen MC on October 9, 2015 at 11:43

    If your poop is magnetic , you got too much iron.

  6. Craig on October 10, 2015 at 07:06

    Got Incompetence? The Federal Gov’t Has Misled Public About Milk For Decades
    “Research published in recent years shows that people “might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk,” according to a front-page story in the Washington Post on Wednesday. “People who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.”
    http://news.investors.com/blogs-capital-hill/100715-774507-government-advice-on-whole-milk-has-been-wrong.htm

    Let’s make Iron Fortification next.

  7. Cathy on October 10, 2015 at 09:07

    DD, I think you and Richard are more than on to something. When Richard first hinted that he had a new article in the works that was going to take the argument in a new direction and it was about explaining all the paradoxes, etc. I was very anxious to read what it was. My theory all along about the “wheat” thing was it was the oils, i.e. soy oil, that they were making bread stuff out of that was making the difference in how modern folks processed flour based products. I knew soy to be a gigantic endocrine disruptor and from watching Julia Child that when lard and beef tallow was replaced by veggie oils, then things changed. I was wrong about the big change — iron fortification and the other vitamin fortification, but now you are hinting at how these supposedly ‘healthy’ oils exacerbate the uptake of iron. Good stuff!!!
    I grew up eating a lot of wheat products. There were five kids and we ate lots of cereal, sandwiches, and spaghetti. This was the 60’s and 70’s. When I got married, we were poor grad students so our diet was a lot of potatoes and pasta. We were very thin. When I look at photos of myself and my husband, I don’t see skeletal people, I see thin people with some muscle tone and vibrance to them. Nowadays if someone was as thin as we were, they would look like addicts. I don’t know if all the carbs we ate along with other stuff made the difference, but it didn’t look weird to see us that thin.
    Keep these posts and observations coming, especially about the French. I love French food. I think the surface of all of this is just beginning to be scraped and several more sacred nutrition cows are headed for the abbatoir.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 10, 2015 at 10:01

      Thanks Cathy.

      You get it.

      If I could sum up the DD collaboration it is that this id the first thing that does not simply ignore population falsifications.

      Low carb is so ridiculously falsified only religious people in the church of Jimmy could believe it.

      And now Paleo if generally falsified. Not the grains, per se. Unfortunately, thats their largest principle of all. Shed that, and you’re whole foods or Mediterranain, and life is way better, more flexible, simpler and more enjoyable.

      • TempestTcup on October 10, 2015 at 19:18

        “you’re whole foods or Mediterranain, and life is way better, more flexible, simpler and more enjoyable.”

        Yes this exactly! I started Paleo (with keto) about 10 years ago, probably following you or following you soon after, and it solved a lot of the problems I was having. Then I followed your whole gut flora thing and that helped more. Your suggestion for soil-based probiotics cured my husbands and many of my friends’ allergies, by the way. I started eating more starches and prebiotics, and now I eat more Mediterranean. I call it post-paleo 🙂

        I think keto was good at first to starve my bad gut flora, which I suspect is the cause of “carb flu”: you feel sluggish and bad because of the biofilms being released into your system. Then paleo was good for a while because of the high fat and simple foods, adding in rice and starches later helped my sleep, and now I eat normal (mainly home cooked) foods and I stay thin and feel great. Life is so much better when your diet is not restrictive, although I do think the process I went through to get to where I am today was a good one and very beneficial.

        I’m looking forward to whatever you come up with next!



      • Richard Nikoley on October 10, 2015 at 19:22

        TT

        Comments like that fall into the better than money category. Thanks for giving your own experience about what I think.



  8. FrenchFry on October 12, 2015 at 01:53

    Interesting historical tidbit from

    Nutritional Biochemistry and the Discovery of Vitamins: the Work of Elmer Verner McCollum

    http://www.jbc.org/content/277/19/e8

    “McCollum was involved in many policy debates including one over the best strategy to fortify bread. He had shown, and publicized, that white bread was nutritionally deficient. With the development of synthetic vitamins, it was proposed that bread and flour be enriched with thiamin, niacin, and iron. This effort was lead by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council. McCollum was a member of the Board but disagreed and was strongly critical of the recommendation because supplementation with such nutrients failed to make up for all the losses suffered during milling wheat. As a result of his disagreement with the other members of the Board, his Board colleagues changed his status from Board member to panel member. As a panel member he was not invited to any of the Board meetings.”

    • Duck Dodgers on October 12, 2015 at 10:00

      Excellent find, FrenchFry. I’ve been trying to figure out how they settled on such an imbalance when according to this link (which we cited in the article, above), the National Food Board made a point that fortification should not promote an imbalance. But that’s exactly what they ended up doing. The board settled on only fortifying the most “essential” nutrients and that meant iron, but no other minerals. Given McCollum’s dissent, it seems that the decision was not unanimous.

      • FrenchFry on October 13, 2015 at 01:26

        Yeah, it’s so bizarre actually: here was a guy who knew his shit, proved that refined wheat bread was nutritionally deficient and needed to be improved to overcome the nutritional losses. Then a bunch of guys decided that the missing nutrients were this and that, not more. The first guy said “NO, you also need X, Y Z, because of the damages introduced by the milling”, but instead of listening to the one guy who knew what was needed, they showed him out of the decision room.

        Smells like some people needed quick shortcuts at a cheapest cost to claim that white bread was made more nutritionally relevant. If such moronic decision making has been the standard for all these years, no wonder we are in this mess today …



  9. Tim J Penner on October 12, 2015 at 15:07

    @zen MC says: October 9, 2015 at 11:43
    If your poop is magnetic , you got too much iron.

    Here is how to tell if your iron levels are too high. Drop one log, if your poop points north, you are too high.

  10. Eric on October 13, 2015 at 13:33

    So this seems like really important information, hopefully there’s a lot more reality to back this up than that wheat belly scare, remember when we used to say whole grain was just as bad as refined sugar. Anyway if we can be so sure then let’s get the word out, that’s the most important thing.

    Not to distract from all that but I’d really like to know why then? Just incompetence? It seems to me that a lot of deliberate strategy effected through the plausible deniability afforded by the undeniable incompetence of government.

    I actually passed this article on and someone responded: “No mention of high fructose corn syrup (pure sugar) in everything or the proliferation of fast food “Supersize me”” How do you answer?

    • Richard Nikoley on October 13, 2015 at 15:41

      “Not to distract from all that but I’d really like to know why then?”

      If you followed it, it was the construction of a narrative. The narrative now has capital value from lots of investment (I contributed) and now all people need do is pitch a product or service with a legitimate Paleo tag.

      It’s not awful. Don’t get me wrong. It is, rather, what it is and it’s the way stuff works. I’ve lost friendships over it.

      • Eric on October 13, 2015 at 16:33

        I mean why is the FDA recommending all that iron, what’s behind that? We may never know, there are many mysteries.



    • Duck Dodgers on October 14, 2015 at 17:57

      Eric said: “No mention of high fructose corn syrup (pure sugar) in everything or the proliferation of fast food “Supersize me”” How do you answer?”

      We already covered the link between HFCS and iron in our initial post. If you read that post, you’ll see some evidence that HFCS may significantly increase iron absorption.

      Eric said: “I mean why is the FDA recommending all that iron, what’s behind that? We may never know, there are many mysteries.”

      Part of me wants to believe that this is some great conspiracy. And truth be told, there are accusations in JAMA that McGovern “invented” the data that there was a supposed anemia epidemic (there is no epidemic of anemia in unfortified developed countries). It would make a great movie.

      But, in reality, I think that this is just a product of government failure. I imagine people with good intentions who basically come to a remarkably dumb conclusion (in retrospect).

      A tiny subset of the population is prone to anemia, and it’s easy for a politician to claim victory against this by dumping large quantities of iron into the food supply. The unintended consequences are just brushed under the rug and nobody notices. That’s just how bureaucracy and governments work. In a sane world, those few anemic individuals would just be treated individually.

      What nobody realizes is that anemia is messy—it’s not necessarily caused by an inability to acquire iron. Quite often it can be caused by other factors—like micronutrient deficiencies (copper for instance). These nuances are too complex and individualized for governments to solve. But they try to solve them anyway, and the policy fails despite the fact that 100 years go by and nobody notices the obvious correlations between fortification and poor health.

      Interestingly there have been studies on rats showing the deleterious effects of fortification, though I assume these were dismissed by the FDA for whatever reason.

      As to why they put so much iron into fortified foods, it’s because fortified (non-heme) iron is so poorly absorbed and they can’t really use heme iron because it’s absorbed too well and rather toxic. Most of the fortified iron just hits the colon and causes problems there.

      • HeatherTwist on November 15, 2015 at 19:38

        Anemia IS messy. My mother and sister are walking examples. Both excrete iron at a rapid rate … my Mom to her skin, and my sister to her hair. You can see it! But both are anemic, with very low iron levels in their blood. As a result, probably, they are in rather good shape blood-sugar-wise. They both take iron supplements, which they swear make them feel better.

        My aunt though, would draw her own blood to bring down her iron levels, because she said they were too high. She never explained why exactly, but I’m pretty sure our family doesn’t handle iron well.

        Now, if you get ANY meat in your diet at all, you should not need iron supplements. But if you do eat meat with fortified starches, the iron filings are more absorbable, due to the heme iron and saturated fat. Ditto for some odd things, like soda pop and fruit juice. Other foods tend to block iron, such as tea and milk.

        Anyway, thanks for getting this information out. I think it IS important and it’s a kind of unified field theorem of food right now. Adding iron to food was a stupid mistake, but at least it’s an easy one to fix.



  11. Richard Nikoley on October 13, 2015 at 21:09

    @Eric

    Socialism and collectivism, of course.

    As the world gets more secular and distances from doGs, the void has to be filled with something.

    Arguably, Europe is better at that since they largely put religion to the side but for personal proclivities decades ago. Perhaps the devastation of two world wars at home put the wonder of doG in a certain context.

    • Eric on October 14, 2015 at 06:22

      France is generally considered way more socialist than the U.S. but they don’t put iron fillings in the food. I don’t think there is such a simple idealogical explanation here, but I could be wrong, I really have no idea, except maybe it’s related to fluoride in the water. I don’t think anyone ever really believed that was a communist plot, that’s just a straw man argument meant to distract attention from what’s really going on, whatever that may be.

      • FrenchFry on October 14, 2015 at 06:38

        @Eric

        See my comment : https://freetheanimal.com/2015/10/fortification-obesity-refinements.html#comment-741326

        100+ years ago, people knew white flour was nutritionally deficient, but for taste, color, but also shelf-life, it had become fashionable to eat white bread and pastry.

        Enrichment and fortification was a way to make white flour based foods more nutritionally relevant, but probably at a cheap cost. It continues to this day …



      • Eric on October 14, 2015 at 17:09

        @FrenchFry

        I can see how it works for the marketing slogan in the image at the top of this post. Maybe these companies started enriching 100 years ago and later influenced the FDA to put out recommendations that matched what they were doing pretty cheaply and easily already. Then they could turn around and say look at our wonderful product that complies with all recommendations of a serious government agency like the FDA. I just wonder why they pushed for even more fortification, unless that was another marketing slogan at some point, like “now with even more fortification!” I think a lot of this marketing isn’t only to get people to buy this brand over other brands, but also maybe even more importantly to get people who already buy this brand to incorporate more of it into their diets and buy more.



      • Duck Dodgers on October 14, 2015 at 18:12

        Eric,

        Fortification was invented in the 1920s and introduced in the 1930s, but it wasn’t that popular at first. Part of the problem was that fortification increased the price of bread—particularly when it was first introduced—and bakeries did not like to sell products that had higher costs. Nor did consumers enjoy paying more for bread.

        So, I don’t think that this was something the baking industry wanted. More likely, they only agreed to do it once governments encouraged it, the price of fortification dropped, and a demand appeared.

        The 1970s fortification bump was done to try and “cure” a manufactured anemia problem. In reality there was no major anemia problem (nor is there any anemia problem in unfortified developed countries).

        If you have access to JAMA, you can read about the controversy here:

        http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=360174
        http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=355176

        Crosby accuses the government of inventing an anemia problem and falsifying data, and pushed through by McGovern.

        The entire nations seems to have forgotten about the controversy. It would make a great investigative journalism piece if someone had the interest in looking into it. I’ll bet with a Freedom of Information Act, someone could uncover a great story.



      • Duck Dodgers on October 14, 2015 at 18:20

        One other thing that I’ve pondered is why copper was not included in the formulation? Even 100 years ago, it was known that copper was essential for curing anemia.

        So, if governments truly wanted to cure anemia, they would have added copper to the fortification formula. I imagine that copper was left out because it was being rationed during the war. It would have been too rare and expensive to be used as an additive for food. And I’ll bet bakeries and consumers were unwilling to pay for it.

        At the time, people were supposed to be rationing copper to support the war effort. Even the US Mint didn’t have enough copper to mint pennies. That’s why the steel penny was used.



  12. Eric on October 14, 2015 at 20:21

    @Duck Dodgers – Thanks for narrowing that down, I would certainly like to see a piece investigating why the anemia problem was concocted.

    • Duck Dodgers on October 15, 2015 at 07:31

      Me too. For those who didn’t take the time to click on the links in my comment, above, Crosby writes, “the data were manipulated to suggest a national catastrophe, especially in the area of anemia.”

      If Crosby’s accusation is accurate, I’ll bet a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request would find some fascinating skeletons. Anyone know any good investigative journalists?

      • Eric on October 15, 2015 at 15:46

        Well I’m not trying to promote any wild conspiracy theories or anything but maybe these pharmaceutical companies are behind many public policies that ultimately lead to increases in chronic conditions. Apparently pharmaceuticals for treating diabetes and obesity are a major focus for some companies these days. This is just a highly speculative hypothesis, not even close to an actual theory. Just because institutional incompetence is very plausible doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the ultimate cause. Again we may never know for sure.



      • Duck Dodgers on October 16, 2015 at 18:30

        And looking at the ABA website, it’s packed with “celebrations” on their achievement of enrichment, like this one:

        ABA Celebrates Enrichment of Grains on Capitol Hill (2012)

        The American Bakers Association hosted a Congressional reception last week to celebrate one of the top ten health achievements of the century – the fortification of Enriched Grains with Folic Acid. Nearly 70 guests attended the reception, including ABA members, allied supporters and staff representatives from Senate and House offices.

        Enrichment is, without a doubt, a product of the ABA, and a coalition known as “The Grain Chain”.

        Never mind that folic acid fortification only helps a few hundred people each year and harms far more people than it helps. Pretty sad that’s all it takes to be one of the “top ten health achievements of the century.”

        The ABA doesn’t care about those minor details, of course. They are far more interested in shaking hands on Capitol Hill.

        Their website is filled with press releases, like this one featuring their influence on the government Dietary Guidelines, and their continuous push for the government to recommend enriched grains.

        See this letter written to the USDA and HHS.

        Comments to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Regarding the Importance of Grains in the Diet

        The crucial role of enriched grains in the diet

        The Grain Chain endorses maintaining the 2010 DGAC grain consumption recommendation that Americans consume six servings daily with at least half of all grains as whole grains. We also urge the Committee to continue to recognize the valuable role of enriched grains in a healthy diet, a key component of which is fortification with folic acid, in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

        “The Grain Chain” includes: American Bakers Association, American Institute of Baking, Grain Foods Foundation, Grains for Health Foundation, Independent Bakers Association National Association of Wheat Growers, National Pasta Association,
        North American Millers’ Association, Retail Bakers of America, USA Rice Federation, Wheat Foods Council



      • Duck Dodgers on October 16, 2015 at 18:50

        Jesus… I found more.

        The government committee that creates the scientific report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) groups refined and enriched grains together. The ABA and the “Grain Chain” testified to convince the committee to reconsider this.

        Read this press release to have your mind blown…

        Grain Chain Testimony at DGAC Emphasizes Balance for Whole and Enriched Grains (March 2015)

        “The American Bakers Association (ABA) greatly appreciates Dr. Glenn Gaesser’s balanced testimony on behalf of the Grain Chain Coalition,” said Lee Sanders, ABA Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Public Affairs. Dr. Gaesser, PhD, a Professor and Director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center at Arizona State University, testified on the recently released Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).

        “The Committee’s coupling of enriched grains with refined grains, and the recommendation for reduced consumption of refined grains adversely impacts the notable health benefits of fortified enriched grains for women and infant health,” said ABA President & CEO Robb MacKie. “Dr. Gaesser rightly pointed out the flaws in the DGAC’s approach to grains.”

        Dr. Gaesser highlighted the important health gains due to folic acid fortification of flour in his testimony. Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated folic acid fortification of enriched grains in 1998, there has been a 36 percent decrease in the incidence of American infants born with neural tube defects including spinal bifida and anencephaly. A success that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called one of the top ten health achievements of the decade.

        Dr. Gaesser also highlighted the important contribution of other vital, under-consumed nutrients that grain foods provide including B vitamins, fiber, and iron. Grains like bread, rolls, buns, pasta, and cereal contribute 44 percent of all fiber to the American diet.

        “While ABA agrees the DGAC’s call for to make half your grains whole, it is important for HHS and USDA to clearly inform the public of the health benefits provided by both enriched and whole grain foods, which the DGAC has unfortunately misrepresented in its report,” added MacKie.

        They keep celebrating that folic acid fortification has resulted in a “36 percent decrease” in NTDs. Yes, for a very rare birth defect, this translates to a 0.015% reduction in NTDs in absolute terms, and the enrichment almost harms more people than it helps.

        Since the absolute difference is minuscule, it would seem that fortification isn’t really about curing rare birth defects—they are simply trying to make their product sound more appealing to the people who make the official dietary guidelines.



      • Duck Dodgers on October 16, 2015 at 18:08

        Ugh.. Looks like you were on to something, Eric. I think I figured out where the push to increase fortification levels came from. I can’t access the full paper, but the abstract is telling:

        The Enrichment Debate (1977)

        The iron super-enrichment controversy which has been simmering for several years shows signs of coming to a boil once again. Five years ago the Food and Drug Administration proposed to require a three-fold increase in the amount of iron presently added to bakery products. The American Bakers Association has renewed its request to the Food and Drug Commissioner this regulation while many physicians have steadfastly opposed the adoption of such a ruling.

        So, doctors wisely opposed “iron super-enrichment”, while the American Bakers Association apparently pressured the FDA to increase enrichment.

        Check this out:

        2013-2014 ROI Report for the American Bakers Association

        ABA is leading the “Grain Chain” in promoting the healthy benefits of grains to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). The Grain Chain is meeting with agency representatives and members of Congress who are influential to the completion of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines to educate them on the importance of whole and enriched grains in the American diet.

        To speak on behalf of the Grain Chain, ABA secured Joanne Slavin, RD, PhD, and Professor for Nutrition Science at the University of Minnesota. The insight and counsel of Dr. Slavin, a member of the 2010 DGAC, have been invaluable. Delivering expert testimony before DGAC, she emphasized support for the current guidelines (six servings with half being whole grains) and the nutritional benefits of whole and enriched grains. Slavin highlighted opportunities with vitamin D and grains as an important source of fiber and iron. Her testimony also emphasized the need for additional research before changing current sodium recommendations.

        ABA will continue its work to ensure grains remain the largest “plate portion” of the new MyPlate icon.

        Slavin actually wrote a few good papers on the role of phytochemicals in whole grains, but it’s sad to see that she’s a shill for the ABA’s enrichment plan.

        So, the ABA appears to be the ones who fucked up the food supply and potentially triggered the obesity epidemic with their “iron super-enrichment” that did nothing to cure a non-existant anemia epidemic.

        Yes, so it appears this is about money.

        In order to secure a larger spot on the Food Pyramid (now the “MyPlate” icon), I think they figured that super-enrichment would allow them to secure that spot and peddle more enriched junk white flour to the public.



      • Duck Dodgers on October 17, 2015 at 11:09

        Nail in the coffin…

        During the 1950s, the AMA helped the “Wheat Flour Institute” advertise enriched bread as an ideal weight loss food. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect.

        By the 1970s, Americans begun to perceive that grains were making them fat, and therefore grain consumption was declining. (Of course, this wasn’t the case in France and other European nations). This was problematic because the research overwhelmingly showed that (whole) grains were healthy. Something had to be done.

        Enter The American Bakers Association.

        The American Bakers Association appears to have persuaded McGovern to influence the dietary guidelines during the late 1970s in response to this problem.

        From the ABA’s perspective, Americans were already addicted to white flour, and it wanted to find a way to include refined grains in these dietary guidelines so that they could promote the consumption of refined grains.

        Enrichment is not about making refined products healthier. Rather, the push to enrich grains was nothing more than a way to sneak refined grains into the government’s dietary recommendations.



      • Duck Dodgers on October 17, 2015 at 11:15

        I also found that the push to increase grain consumption was well supported by the literature when these dietary guidelines were being solidified.

        For instance, this chart appeared in one of the documents put forth by the committee. It shows that carb consumption had gone down since 1909, which was used to explain why people’s health had deteriorated since then. They figured that if they increased starch consumption, people would regain their health and lose weight. But the opposite happened.



      • Duck Dodgers on October 17, 2015 at 19:33

        Sorry, wrong link. That chart showed how complex carbs were being replaced with sugar. Here is the chart the USDA used showing carb consumption going down over much of the 20th century (replaced with fat), before the dietary guidelines were written.



      • Gemma on October 18, 2015 at 12:05

        “maybe these pharmaceutical companies are behind many public policies that ultimately lead to increases in chronic conditions. ”

        It is always about money…

        Clinton takes in big money from drug industry

        “Hillary Clinton has said she is proud to have drug companies as her enemies – but she is also taking their money. Lots of it.

        The Clinton campaign received far more money from the drug and medical device industries than any other presidential candidate in either party during the first six months of the campaign, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. She accepted $164,315 during that period.”



  13. Eric on October 21, 2015 at 09:39

    @Duck Dodgers
    Wow thanks for digging all that up, though part of me thinks this ABA thing is just a front for something even deeper. On the other hand personal experience has shown how totally uncreative business owner types go to great lengths to do really stupid things out of fear of losing potential business. They all think they’re such experts in crowd psychology. It’s fun to see Silicone valley types run circles around them, i.e. Uber, AirBnb, etc…

  14. Namu on November 27, 2015 at 05:19

    As always very interesting and compelling evidence. Thanks guys.

    However…

    I’m french, and my entire family is overweight, and I was obese as well as prediabetic until I went paleo low-carb and ditched wheat entirely.

    I still do eat some wheat-rich pastries once in a while, and everytime I do I get weapons-grade nuclear GERD, then diarrhea.

    So, yeah, iron enrichment seems to be a big contributor to obesity and chronic diseases, but in my understanding and my experience, that does not exculpate modern wheat.

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