Foods behind obesity must go up in smoke

It now appears to be politically incorrect to point out to people who are fat that they are a danger to themselves and society around them.

The conventional wisdom seems to be focussed on how genetic patterns and a lack of education are core reasons behind the epidemic of obesity stretching across the world. We must, apparently, look to medicine and therapy as the means of addressing this crisis. What a load of hooey.

A few facts: obesity levels have doubled in the last 30 years in the West; obesity is directly linked to heart disease, diabetes and various cancers and; more than a third of US adults are obese and 17% of children. A pretty picture, isn’t it?

You can roll around and accept these trends as inevitable consequences of a developing society, or you can look around and make some logical observations.

Do you see how many kids have gaming computers and appliances that keep them rooted to the couch?

Have you noticed the explosion in fast-food outlets where the idea of value is bigger portions for less money?

Are you aware of the vast amount of advertising undertaken by fast food and soft drink companies? It is beyond a joke that we cannot link these factors with the growing number of individuals who are gone way beyond pudgy.

Don’t be smug about this if you are thin and healthy. It is estimated that hospital bed requirements will increase by 50%-60% over the next 15 years if current obesity levels continue.

That’s you and me paying for a much more expensive healthcare system. The impact of lost work days and the draining effects on energy levels of this epidemic have detrimental economic consequences too.

So, what do we do? Shoulder-shrugging is an option, but not recommended. The end result of any adopted strategy must be: (evidence that children are running around in open spaces most days of the week; a radical reduction in the per capita consumption levels of crisps, burgers, pizzas and soft drinks; a reversal in reported obesity levels. Sounds undoable, right ?

If you look at photos or watch films from as recently as 30 years ago what do you always see? Smokers. My parents’ generation smoked as much as we eat pizzas. It was a conventional and accepted thing to do. Those that did not were deemed a bit odd. The consequences were horrific. Heart problems and lung disease were just two of the direct illnesses but many other afflictions are attributed to it too. Advertising was rampant and ciggies were cheap. Sound familiar?

It will take a Herculean effort to arrest the wave of obesity sweeping society. Tough political decisions will be needed to halt the marketing of foods and drink that are causal inputs to fatness. Education programmes will be needed to show how fat makes you sick. The tax system may be required to screw obesity-causing products and cut the price of fresh food.

If we don’t do this, the nation will evolve into a herd of blimps. People will age early and be sick way before their time. As always, things like this are sensitive and I’m sure a battery of arguments about the psychologically insensitive tenure of this article will come forward. But, hey, the truth is a tough station. The fatties are in the ascendency.

* Joe Gill is director of research with Bloxham Stockbrokers


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