The Trail of Corn; going where no man (or woman) has gone before

A feedlot raised cow eating cornWho would have ever thought that ‘corn’ might be the cause of many of our common illnesses and diseases today. This article from US Wellness Meats newsletter by Catherine Ebeling, RN, BSN puts the issue of corn and the foods we eat into perspective. The one most startling fact that Ebeling points out is that… “corn has a peculiar carbon structure which can be traced in everything that consumes it. Compare a hair sample from an American and a Mexican and you’ll discover that the American contains a far larger proportion of corn-type carbon.” This reminds me of the Monsanto ‘tracker gene’ in Genetically Modified seed crops, when cross pollination occurs between farms, via insects or wind, the farm that may have been saving their own seed for generations can become contaminated by the Monsanto seed and the tracker gene can be found in the seed that had been saved for generations (that was NOT genetically modified)… but that’s a topic for a different article; The Skinny About Supermarket Meat and Your Health.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy corn just as much as the next gal. I just don’t believe it’s necessary to have corn in some 45,000 different products in our stores.

The point Ebeling makes is valuable and insightful on the trail that corn has had over the decades. Clearly this makes a great case for why we need factual information available to us so that ‘we’ can make educated choices and not be blinded by the glitz lining store shelves and the convincing billions of dollars a year of marketing has on consumers.

The American Feedlot, by Catherine Ebeling, RN, BSN

America is turning into one big gigantic feedlot… and WE are the cattle.

In the same way that commercially raised cattle are now living on a diet that consists mostly of corn, wheat, and soy products, so too, is the American public.

Like it or not, these industrialized farm products have found their way into our food supply in thousands of insidious ways.

From the myriad of packaged, processed items available at the grocery store, all the way to the commercially raised meats – corn, wheat and soy seem to be on the ingredient list if you look long enough.

Our American diet is not balanced.  It’s heavily weighted with grain, grain-based food products (foods and drinks laced with high fructose corn syrup and other grain-type additives), and grain-fed livestock products.

About a third of your local supermarket’s 45,000 ingredients have corn, wheat or soy products or their derivatives in them.

The worst of these grains is corn.  Corn is the most abundant grain produced in America!

From high fructose corn syrup, to cornstarch, corn flour, corn bran, to the meat that was raised on corn—and much less obvious, leavenings and lecithin, mono-, di-, and triglycerides, the golden coloring, and even citric acid can all be derived from corn.

Once milled, refined and restructured, corn can become any number of things, from ethanol for the gas tank to dozens of edible products, like the thickener in a milkshake, the hydrogenated oil in margarine, the modified cornstarch that binds the pulverized meat in a McNugget and most dangerous of all, the nearly unavoidable sweetener known as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). On the market for about thirty years, HFCS has been snuck into every nook and cranny of the food system.

At the same time, the commercial food industry has done a great job brainwashing us into believing that those 45,000 different items in the grocery store represent real variety in food instead of clever rearrangements of ingredients and molecules that all come from the same plant.

We are now trapped in our own backyard feedlots, and have become obese, sick with chronic disease, and apathetic about the source and nutritional quality of our food—simply because, “It tastes good.”

This messed up dysfunctional food system has found a way to super-size appetites and create food addictions in the search for bigger food dollars, in spite of the cost to our health.

Foods seemingly as diverse as Gatorade, Twinkies, and hamburgers all start with the same ingredient…corn. There are huge factories that can transform kernels of corn into an astonishing array of compounds, both edible and non-edible.

Disposable diapers, trash bags, toothpaste, charcoal briquettes, matches, batteries, and even the shine on the covers of magazines all contain corn.

In America, most all conventionally raised meat can be traced back to corn: chickens, turkeys, pigs, and even cows (which would be far healthier and happier eating grass) are forced into eating corn. Even our farmed fish supply is now becoming corn-fed, like the carnivorous salmon.

Here is an interesting test to take to see how much corn you have consumed:

It turns out that corn has a peculiar carbon structure which can be traced in everything that consumes it. Compare a hair sample from an American and a Mexican and you’ll discover that the American contains a far larger proportion of corn-type carbon.

Todd Dawson, a plant biologist at the University of California-Berkeley, can test a strand of hair to determine how much corn is in your diet or mine by looking for a form of carbon found in corn.

“We are what we eat with respect to carbon, for sure. So if we eat a particular kind of food and it has a particular kind of carbon in it, that’s recorded in us, in our tissues, in our hair, in our fingernails, in the muscles,” Dawson says.

In most Americans, about 70% or more of the carbon comes from corn.  This may seem high, but it is typical.  “North Americans are like corn chips with legs,” says one of the researchers who conducts such tests.

What’s wrong with eating such a corn-rich diet? After all, the big base of the food pyramid is GRAIN. You are what you eat, and there is plenty of graphic evidence that the American way of eating not only spreads illness, but waste, and ecological devastation across the globe.

The average American diet consists of food products with Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios of about 25:1.

Nutritional scientists report on laboratory experiments with rats that indicate chronic diseases start occurring and are detectable when the ratio exceeds 4:1.

The optimum ratio, and it’s the ratio found in grass-fed animals, seems to hover around 1:1.  Since all grains have high omega 6 to omega 3 ratios, it’s obvious to see that a grain-based food system creates a serious omega 3 deficiency!

Corn not only has the worst fatty acid profile as far as omega 6’s to omega 3’s but it is also a host to twenty-some different fungi including Aspergillus.  Some of these fungi release debilitating mycotoxins that can literally kill animals and people.

Aflatoxin is one of the most deadly and highly carcinogenic toxins on the planet. Sadly, though, many condemned corn supplies end up in animal feeds (not only for livestock in feedlots but family pets too.)

Back in the late-1970s scientists started discovering that grain, grain-based foods, and grain-fed livestock products are the root cause for most if not all of today’s major chronic diseases (body failings):  Cancer, depression, ADD, Alzheimer’s, obesity, allergies, autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis, diabetes, asthma, and more can all be traced back to a diet high in grains.

This means if Americans are going to win the battle against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, attention deficit syndrome, and a whole host of other aliments tied to foods too high in omega 6 fatty acids, they are going to have to change their diets.  Obviously, no one food product can solve the problem by itself.  It means a big change.

For most of his time on earth primitive man lived on a diet of greens, vegetables, some tart fruits, some nuts, and mostly meat (large and small animals, plus fish and fowl).  That eating pattern is frequently referred to as the Paleo diet, the Hunter Gatherer diet, and the Cavemen diet. This modern grain-based diet is a far far cry from that of primitive man.

Corn has the ability to fatten up a beef steer more quickly than pasture-grazing does (though at a cost to ourselves and cattle, which haven’t evolved to digest corn, and are therefore fed antibiotics to offset the stresses caused by their unnatural diet).

Corn, as we know, changes the healthy omega 3 fats and abundant CLA that comes from grass, into unhealthy omega 6 fats with far less CLA. This fat also harbors the toxins from the antibiotics and hormones given them.

While cattle are supposed to eat their natural diet of grass, somewhere along the line the industrialization of the food companies decided that cattle would grow and fatten up faster on a diet of cheap corn and grain by-products.

While this has the effect of creating large, fat cattle that grow in about half the time as grass fed, the cattle become as sick as or sicker than we humans from eating corn and grain.  Corn and grain do not agree with cattle’s sensitive systems that were meant to be eating natural pasture grasses.

Corn is also tremendously deficient in calcium.  While some farmers add soybean meal to the corn ration, it actually worsens the problem!  With the extra protein the calves grow faster, further stressing their weak bones.

Is there anyone out there who translates these health problems in cattle to humans? Is it any wonder that we have such a rise in osteoporosis, GERD, ulcers, and digestive issues? Think about it for a minute…

How this peculiar grass that was once native to Central America and unknown in Europe before 1492, came to colonize so much of our land and bodies is one of the plant world’s greatest success stories.

It started in 1947 when a huge ammunition plant in Alabama switched over from making explosives to making chemical fertilizer. After World War II, there was an overwhelming surplus of ammonium nitrate, the principal ingredient for explosives.

It just so happens though, that ammonium nitrate also happens to be an excellent source of nitrogen for plants. The Department of Agriculture decided to spread all this ammonium nitrate on farmland as fertilizer.

The chemical fertilizer industry (along with that of pesticides, which are based on the poison gases developed for war) was the government’s effort to convert itself from a war machine to peacetime endeavors.

This discovery of synthetic nitrogen for farming changed everything–not just for the corn plant and the farm, not just for the food system, but also for the way life on earth is conducted.

Unfortunately it has resulted in widespread environmental degradation, including drained water supplies, degraded soils, and reliance on fossil fuels for fertilizer, pesticides and farm machinery fuel, as well.

American business is Big Business.  That means it is firmly involved with huge capital investments in fixed assets and magnificent cash flows from daily sales. America currently feeds close to 300,000,000 Americans and is fully committed to the status quo.

Worst of all, their customers resist change and continue to vote with their dollars and their taste buds instead of their brains, for inexpensive, taste-enhanced grain-based foods.  That makes it nearly impossible to promote any kind of large scale radical change.

Of course, grass fed meat can improve the health of Americans. But this would be a huge undertaking for America to change. The combination of a wide variety of grass-fed meats, free-range poultry, wild caught fish, and grass fed dairy products would certainly go a long way to help.

Some of our worst health issues are:

  • Obesity: Over 2/3 of Americans struggle with obesity. An average person eats 66.5 pounds of beef per year, which isn’t a lot. A switch from grain-fed beef to grass-fed beef would save about 17,733 calories per year, and better yet, obese people who change their diets to foods providing the proper fatty acid ratio could actually lose weight while consuming the same number of calories.
  • Diabetes: A diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids helps prevent insulin resistance in humans by lowering body fat, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels.
  • Heart Disease: Cattle that have spent four to six months in a feedlot eating grain, have four to six times more fat, twice as much saturated fat, and as little as 1/10 the quantity of omega 3 fatty acids compared to meat from grass-fed cattle. People with diets rich in omega 3 fatty acids have lower blood pressure and stronger hearts, and are half as likely to die from heart attack or stroke. Heart patients who followed an omega 3-rich diet for three years had a 70% reduction in the risk of dying from a heart attack.
  • Mental Disorders including ADD and Alzheimer’s Disease: Your brain is largely composed of fat, and omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important to the brain. That’s why a diet with an adequate level of omega 3 fatty acids will lower the risk of mental disorders including depression, aggressive behavior, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, and dementia.

Think about this for a while…

How do conventional cattle ranchers fatten cattle?  Sure, everyone knows they put them in feedlots and feed them a grain-based diet. Do we want to follow in their ‘hoof’ steps? Slowly but surely many of us are.

Do Americans live in a feedlot? The answer is ‘yes’. It takes a concentrated effort to change that. Let us not be cattle but humans who thrive as our ancestors did. We must think singularly and be individuals in our dietary choices and make the decision to not follow the herd.


David Kamp, Deconstructing Dinner, New York Times, April 23, 2006.
Michael Pollan, What’s Eating America, Smithsonian, June 15, 2006
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, If we are what we eat, Americans are corn and soy, CNN 9/22/07
Tim Flannery, We’re Living on Corn!, The New York Review of Books, June 28, 2007

Other articles on the environment and food

Genetically Modified (GM) Canola Found Growing Along Roadsides

Organic Certification: is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Food Miles: the true cost of the food we buy

Growing Flax: a story of beauty, health, prosperity and ruin

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