Largesse and Schizophrenia at the USDA by Pat Conrad MD


Readers of this space will note a longstanding antipathy for government-sponsored compassion, as beautifully exemplified by this fun little juxtaposition:  The Wall Street Journal tells us that “an estimated 14.5 million American households had difficulty providing enough food for their families last year, according to a recent government report.”  Said report was from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which determined this number based on “how many households have to limit their food options or even skip meals because they cannot afford enough or healthier food.”  This term is “food security”, worse degrees of which are correlated with lower median household income.

The article continues:

“It may surprise some that, in fact, the majority of the 10 states with food access problems have higher-than-average obesity rates. Mississippi and Arkansas had the second and third highest obesity rates in the country in 2012..”

“The lack of healthy food among families in these states is one of the reasons you have very poor people who are obese. It is because they’re not able to afford nutritious and high protein food”, explains Ross Fraser, spokesperson for hunger-relief charity Feeding America.

Fine, the big’uns in the South are malnourished, even as their food stamp usage and Hemoglobin A1c rates soar.  I’m no nutritionist, but I can happily see Fraser’s point that these folks are not well nourished.  But I’ll be damned if I’ll buy the Huffington Post headline:  “The States Where The Most People Go Hungry.”  The USDA awards the great state of Mississippi the first place trophy for “Going Most Hungry.”  Mississippi also takes home the silver medal for “Most Fat”, with a clinical obesity rate of 32.2%.  And that’s where I’m getting off the bus (hopefully for a great steak and fries with gravy in Greenville, MS).  My beloved South is not awash in kwashiorkor, and the stupid federal studies and their grant recipients who put “fat” and “starving” on the same plate just don’t pass the taste test.


Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  6 comments for “Largesse and Schizophrenia at the USDA by Pat Conrad MD

  1. September 12, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Dear Doug, I enjoy A.M., but I think you are a bit obtuse in this post.
    But keep on keepin’ on.

    • Doug Farrago
      September 13, 2013 at 6:25 am

      Dr. Conrad wrote this post.

  2. T Newberry
    September 11, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    That is quite a sensational headline. Of course the word “hungry” is only mentioned once in the body of the article and is associated with a very specific definition. Meanwhile, the article also specifically states “having low food security does not necessarily mean families are starving”. And that is the only place the word “starving” is used. Fat people are not “starving” (and the article DOES NOT say they are), but that doesn’t mean they never go hungry, which is an issue of food security, which is the point of the article and the study. Plus, fat people are most definitely “undernourished” – a word considered synonymous with hungry and starving even though they don’t mean the same thing.

    It is worth reading the very short article. If you don’t form your own opinions then they are not actually your opinions.

  3. Jimmy Roy
    September 11, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    I don’t know about MS, but here in LA-specifically New Orleans where I have been bred, born and raised-the “saying” that is most oft quoted is: “We live to eat”…and around here, this is a good thing.

    • Pat
      September 11, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Which is why I walk everywhere in the Big Easy! Love it!

  4. Bridget Reidy
    September 10, 2013 at 10:16 am

    If hungry means can’t sleep or function well until raise glucose level a bit it makes perfect sense. High glycemic index foods cause bursts of insulin which turns out to be too much for what little is left to be digested a short 1-4 hours later. And we are partly to blame by letting the agricultural influences lead people to believe that the way to fight obesity is to eat more “healthier” food (whatever that means, usually people assume everyone knows but most people think it means low fat which often raises the glycemic index), instead of the known answer to eat less calories (which is of course not the same as choosing less calorie dense foods). I have had patients spontaneously lose weight simply from telling them that it’s the quantity, not the quality of the foods they eat, and those that find they can’t sleep or function when they eat less often do well when I tell them to try lower GI foods or adding fat.
    When physicians start looking at the science and correcting people’s cultural myths, then we can make the political point that more food or more money for food is not the solution.
    My point is made but here’s more info for people who are intrigued: I put the question “Which is better for weight loss, yoghurt or cheese?” on my first visit health questionnaire. I was tired of people nodding as if they knew when the subject of weight loss came up and I told them less food is the answer. They would nod as if they knew and then go off on (very boring) tangents about what they eat, with no attempt to quantify. I found pointing out that they had answered “yoghurt” on the form was proof that they had fallen for all our cultural weight loss myths and they need to do more to change their thinking than nod when given an obvious fact that actually contradicts most of their beliefs if they really take it in. Doing so saved me a lot of time because the only people who wanted to talk further were people who wanted to learn and change. Also people curious about why I’d put the question there were also interested in learning so it would start the conversation but only when it was likely to be fruitful. I’d tell them I could do a whole visit on the answer, but the short answer is it’s not what, but how much. The visit would get a counseling code cause it really does take twenty minutes to break down all the misconceptions. Not many scheduled the visit which surprised me in this place where people have time and good insurance. The time saved on not talking to people not really interested in change was immense, never mind many of the rest lost weight.

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