A Cornucopia article about a possible cause of obesity caught my attention recently. Although I’ve read about many other problems with genetically engineered (GE) foods, this was the first I’d heard that they were associated with causing obesity. When I read about the Norwegian study I was struck by the similarity to a 2011 survey that showed corn consumption was related to obesity trends.
First let’s look at the Norwegian study:
Norwegian study finds GE diet causes obesity in animals
A new study from Norway has found a link between eating GE corn and obesity in animals. The animals included rats, mice, pigs, and salmon, and all got fatter faster when eating the GE diet. “Animals fed a GE corn diet got fatter quicker and retained the weight compared to animals fed a non-GE grain diet.” The animals’ diet included both GE corn and soy which had been engineered to contain the bacteria Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), an insecticide that kills insect pests which damage corn, soy, cotton, canola, and other crops.
Avoiding eating GE foods is not enough to avoid obesity
A key finding that could indicate real problems for us–it wasn’t necessary to eat the GE foods directly! Rats who ate fish that had been fed GE grain got fat. In fact, both the GE-fed fish and the rats who ate the fish got fatter faster. Could this be true for humans? If we eat GE foods do we get fatter faster? GE foods have been on the market as animal feed since 1996, and, unless you bought your meat directly from a farmer you know or only bought organically fed meat, you almost certainly have eaten meat from animals fed genetically engineered grain. If you eat out, especially at fast food or chain restaurants, you probably can’t avoid eating meat from GE-fed animals. Could eating GE meat have helped make us fat, or at least have made it harder for us to maintain a reasonable weight?
GE material passes into the blood and tissue
Weight gain wasn’t the only problem found in animals fed a GE diet. The researchers found “distinct changes to the intestines of animals fed GMOs compared to those fed non-GMOs. . . . Significant changes occurred in the digestive systems of the test animals’ major organs including the liver, kidneys, pancreas, genitals and more.” Another key point–the animals were less able to digest proteins, potentially very damaging, since amino acid are necessary for all life processes. Inability to digest proteins could lead to many modern diseases such as diabetes, digestive disorders, IBS, colitis, autism, and more. Many so-called ‘scientists’ will swear that genetically engineered foods are no different from normally grown crops, and that the engineered genes are destroyed in the intestines and will not cause any damage to humans. However, this study shows that the GE material crossed the intestinal wall, went into the blood, and on into the muscle and liver, in recognizable chunks. When we eat GE food (or even meat from animals fed GE food) the genetically engineered material passes into our blood and tissues. As one researcher pointed out, the “biological impact of this gene transfer is unknown” because no long-term testing of safety in humans has been done.
List of GE foods
To see how easy it is to eat GE foods, here’s a partial list of genetically engineered foods: corn, maize, soy, canola, cotton, alfalfa, barley, rice, sugar beets, cabbage, sugar cane, wheat, zucchini, yellow summer squash, papaya, bananas, grapes, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, groundnut, chicory, cantaloupe, cucumber, melon, plum, apple . . . Many of these are grown where their pollen drifts to neighboring fields, thus contaminating non-GE crops and the bees who pollinate the crops.
Now, let’s look at the 2011 survey:
Survey shows correlation between corn consumption and rising obesity
A 2011 survey of American food trends found that the consumption of corn products is correlated to rising obesity. [The survey's definition of corn products included flour and meal, hominy and grits, cornstarch, and other corn products.] The correlation, which was independent of gender and race/ethnicity, “coincides with the introduction of bioengineered corns into the human food chain.” The survey also showed that obesity trends did not correlate with intake of “other major food types, including chicken, dairy fats, salad and cooking oils, and cheese. The study performed regression analysis on data for various food types and found that only “corn products had a significant effect on rising obesity trends.” Although the association does not prove causation, the researchers were surprised by the observed correlation between corn consumption and obesity because “these foods are not generally considered unhealthy. The researchers analyzed the possible impact of the introduction of genetically engineered corn in 1996 and found that the “trends of obesity and adoption of GM corn were similar.” Approximately 85% of the corn grown in the US is genetically engineered.
The analysis of the survey data concluded that, although food intake has plateaued, the incidence of obesity is still rising, “suggesting that rising obesity trends do not correlate with total energy intake.” The observations prompted a hypothesis that consumption of GE corn is contributing to the obesity trends. They say that the effects can be tested, but that “No data are currently available on how much genetically engineered food is on the market due to a lack of proper labeling and traceability.” They suggest that the Bt antigen “may be the underlying culprit” causing the increase in obesity. For more information go to the study–there’s much more detail, including charts and graphs that depict the trends for various types of foods.
Together these studies indicate a possibly serious problem with the increased consumption of genetically engineered foods, especially corn. We know we have an obesity problem, not just in the US, but also around the world. “Experts” have said we eat too much, we exercise too little, we eat the wrong foods, etc. But just maybe, the GE foods we’re eating are at least contributing to our gaining and keeping too much weight–and we currently have no way to find out how much GE food we are eating because the FDA discourages/prohibits labeling of genetically engineered foods! We need to know what’s in our food!
Decade-Long Feeding Study Reveals Significant Health Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods
Are GMOs Making You Fat?
Rotter fetere av genmat (Original study, in Norwegian)
Survey of American food trends and the growing obesity epidemic
Genes from GMO Food Do Wind Up in People, Study Show
Related Real Food Houston posts:
Who’s against Proposition 37, the California GMO labeling issue?
Study finds that GE toxins damage human cells
Glyphosate is already in our food, air, and water: What is it and why should we care?
GMO Crops Fail Again–This Time Its Bt Corn
It’s Not Pretty Behind the Biotech Veil, an Interview with Howard Vlieger