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US: Attacking the obesity epidemic by first figuring out its cause

The New York Times has an excellent article on the causes of the obesity epidemic and what is needed to turn it around.  The writer, Jane Brody, says the answer lies in understanding what caused the epidemic in the first place. She begins:

If you have gained a lot of unwanted pounds at any time during the last 30-odd years, you may be relieved to know that you are probably not to blame. At least not entirely.

Many environmental forces, from economic interests of the food and beverage industries to the way our cities and towns are built, have conspired to subvert the body’s natural ability to match calories in with calories out.

Brody writes about the differences between growing up now, and when she did – in the 1940s and 50s.  (Walking or biking to the shops for icecream, no TV junk food ads, playing outside till dark,  eating home-prepared meals, not living in car-dependent suburbs, few labour saving devices …)

She uses conclusions from a team of experts, including Professor Boyd Swinburn of Australia’s Deakin University, who  examined obesity-promoting forces globally and published their findings recently in a Lancet series on obesity.

They say weight stayed  stable until the 1970s. That’s when many women entered the workforce and many tasty convenience foods became available. Swinburn calls this “the tipping point”

The Lancet authors say we need complementary, co-ordinated policies to address the obesity epidemic and that the UN and national governments should take the lead.

Read the  Lancet series on obesity, 26 Aug 2011

Read the New York Times article on the causes of obesity, 12 Sep 2011

Published on September 13, 2011 in International news