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Throwing Money At Obesity Will Not Solve The Problem

  • by
  • September 18, 2012
  • 1:00 pm
  • 2 of 2

On the Right to Personal Choice
That government risks infringing on our right to choose what to eat, the authors of the Lancet article suggest, is a phantom argument: “Policy interventions for obesity can only be realistically directed at the environment (making healthy choices easier) rather than the individual (compelling them to take the healthy choices)… For this reason, obesity prevention policies do not proscribe particular eating and physical activity behaviours and are thus much less intrusive of human liberties than many policies already in place to control other public health problems,” such as seat belt laws and smoking restrictions in public spaces.

Taxing sodas and restricting marketing to children does not mean that Coca-Cola and Pop-Tarts will be taken off supermarket shelves. What these measures do, rather, is discourage people from making bad choices on a regular basis. The junk food will always be around for anyone who wants it.

On Industry Regulating Itself
Adopting meaningful measures to reverse the obesity epidemic is simply not a tenable option for the food and beverage industry. Big Food’s mandate is to make a profit and to make more of it year after year, which it can only do by getting people to buy and consume ever more food. The food industry does, however, put on a good face.

As Kelly Brownell, director of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, says, “I expect history will look back with dismay on the celebration of baby steps industry takes (such as public–private partnerships with health organizations, “healthy eating” campaigns, and corporate social responsibility initiatives) while it fights viciously against meaningful change (such as limits on marketing, taxes on products such as sugared beverages, and regulation of nutritional labeling).”

But there’s evidence of self-correcting market forces at work, isn’t there? In response to the obesity epidemic and other health concerns, food companies have developed many healthy alternatives. “But introducing healthier processed foods,” writes Dr. Brownell, “does not mean unhealthy foods will be supplanted, and might simply represent the addition of more calories to the food supply. Furthermore, the companies have not promised to sell less junk food. Quite the contrary…” Big Food’s chief objective — to sell more food — is simply at odds with public health goals.

The introduction of the Prevention and Public Health Fund through the Affordable Care Act marks a pivotal change in government’s approach to health care, directing resources to programs that look to prevent illness and disease before they happen. But, as many public health experts argue, government will have to take far bolder measures for any real progress to be made against the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and many other diet-related diseases the world now faces.


Related Stories:

Are Supermarkets To Blame For the Obesity Epidemic?

Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Will Be Obese in 20 Years

Food Systems Creating Public Health Disaster


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Photo Credits: Don Hankins, Steve Snodgrass

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11:11PM PDT on Oct 2, 2012

People just need to be aware of how easy it really can be to turn your life around at any point, and how much they can benefit from a healthy diet!

2:15PM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

Dealing with obesity is only slightly about diet and exercise, unless one is overweight due to medical reasons. We will never "cure" this "epidemic" until we focus on the underlying reasons why individuals are overweight.

12:50PM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

Education is the answer

11:17AM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

As with sex education, if it's not taught at home then we must all make the effort to provide schools with materials to educate our children. We can't give up on the health of our children.

5:06AM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

We want what we want when we want it............The problem is that we've become a society that expects instant gratification, as evidenced by many of our behaviors, including eating and sexual.
This is real trouble and the government is never the answer.
We have to grow up.

11:59PM PDT on Sep 23, 2012

One cant legalize good atitude, it's in the heads of the people.

1:47PM PDT on Sep 23, 2012


4:31AM PDT on Sep 23, 2012

thanks for sharing this article

6:36PM PDT on Sep 22, 2012


Finally, we discuss the difficulties of fairly assessing the risks linked to EDC exposure, including developmental exposure, problems of high- and low-dose exposure, and the complexity of current chemical environments.

I'm not usually big on Power-point-type presentations, but this gives an excellent overview:

Persistent organic pollutants and metabolic syndrome; Clinical implications

Hong Kyu Lee, M.D.

Please do at least skim over it?

6:33PM PDT on Sep 22, 2012

The obesity epidemic is a symptom of the damage done to our metabolic systems by unregulated industry continually cutting costs/increasing profits by any means possible, costing us our health - and, incidentally, the Earth.

Annu Rev Physiol. 2011;73:135-62.
Endocrine disruptors: from endocrine to metabolic disruption.
Casals-Casas C, Desvergne B.

Center for Integrative Genomics, Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Synthetic chemicals currently used in a variety of industrial and agricultural applications are leading to widespread contamination of the environment. Even though the intended uses of pesticides, plasticizers, antimicrobials, and flame retardants are beneficial, effects on human health are a global concern. These so-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can disrupt hormonal balance and result in developmental and reproductive abnormalities. New in vitro, in vivo, and epidemiological studies link human EDC exposure with obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Here we review the main chemical compounds that may contribute to metabolic disruption. We then present their demonstrated or suggested mechanisms of action with respect to nuclear receptor signaling. Finally, we discuss the difficulties of fairly assessing the risks linked to EDC exposure, including developmental exposure, problems of high- and low-dose exposure, and the complexity o

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