Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A note on the causes of obesity

I just read this fascinating blog post about what appears to be the onset of a world-wide obesity pandemic. I think that David Berreby is spot on in his blog post. There is no single, super simple answer to the problem of worldwide obesity.

This trend has been going on for decades. I can attest to this from personal experience. Years ago, I rented "Herbie the Love Bug", you know, with that adorable Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of his own? The movie? Great for the kids. The extras on the DVD? Mind blowing. One of the extras was a documentary on the making of the movie and that documentary included a very interesting segment.

The making of the The Love Bug movie included a segment with a contest for the best decorated VW Bug. The winner would receive a life-sized replica of car #53, Herbie. The documentary was made in 1969 and what was most striking is that the crowds of people shown competing for the prize were all thin. There were only a couple of people who were overweight that I could see and I felt a sadness at having watched my country become overweight over the years.

One factor that is often overlooked when determining the cause of obesity? Capitalism. Capitalism encourages us to eat more and to live in a soup of industrial chemicals that alter our response to hunger and to food. Capitalism also encourages us to sleep in rooms with little blinking lights throughout the night.

Berreby's blog post also notes that this obesity trend is not just with humans. The weights of eight species of lab animals were tracked over decades and all of them consistently gained weight over the last few decades.

While personal responsibility certainly plays a significant role in obesity, world-wide, everywhere we happen to be, there are many other forces at work contributing to our girth. These forces are not easily discerned and once political discussions begin, at least a few people are going to be thinking about how to protect their bottom line before they take an interest in solving the problem.

Hopefully, we can all work peacefully together to solve it.
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