The Fat Land

Obesity is a disease.

About 40 per cent of Canadian forces members consider themselves fat.

About 48 per cent of Canadian children seven to 12 years old eat junk food for an afternoon snack.

About 50 per cent of Canadians are overweight compared to 61 per cent of Americans who are overweight.

About 25 per cent of all Americans under 19 are overweight, a figure that has doubled in 30 years.

World Health Organization estimates that in the most industrialized countries; at least one-third of all disease burden is caused by tobacco, alcohol, blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity.

Compare this to developing countries of the world; underweight alone accounts for over three-million childhood deaths a year.

Some die because they have too much to eat; others die because they don’t have enough to eat.

“Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World,” is a book recently published by Houghton Mifflin and is written by Greg Critser. I saw the book’s review in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and found the information interesting. Here are some interesting observations.

Critser blames the obesity epidemic on President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, who in 1970s delivered everything that the modern American consumer had wanted – plenty of cheap, abundant, and tasty calories.

This was done by vastly increasing corn production and thus boosting the manufacture of high fructose corn syrup used in sweetening cola drinks.

New technologies converted cheap imports of palm oil, into a viable commercial fat, one fit for everything from frying chips to making margarine to baking cookies and bread and pies.

Food became cheap. We saw the introduction of “super-sizing” of portions (“value meals”) 12 ounce Cokes, the Big Mac, and jumbo fries.

Fast food companies penetrated school lunch programmes by providing foods high in fats and sugars.

By 1999, 95 per cent of 345 California high schools surveyed were offering branded fast foods as a la carte entrée items for lunch.

Social forces have also expanded our waistline.

We work long hours, spend lot of time commuting, we don’t sweat much at work, we snack a lot, children spend more time watching television, playing on the computer and the video games.

Physical education does not get a priority in schools, and the rates of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes continues to increase.

What can we do about it?

Critser suggests reform of grade school lunch programmes, more physical education in schools and after school programmes, and involvement of parents of obese children in nutrition education.

What about obese middle aged and older men and women?

In a letter to the BMJ editor, a doctor suggests that obesity may be controlled in older people by more sexual activity which would replace gratification derived from eating and drinking, a sort of reversal of the libidinal shift from genital sexuality to the alimentary tract exhibited in advancing age.

Wow, not a bad idea! Have you tried it lately?

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