Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Obesity & Upstream Issues

Essentially, obesity boils down to one issue: People take in more calories than they expend. But of course we know there are many other issues that contribute to this: cost of food, access to healthy foods and environments, media and advertising, school lunch programs, agricultural subsidies, and more.

According to CDC, obesity costs the U.S. $47.5 million, and that's a 1998 figure! This USA Today article puts that figure much higher, around $147 billion. And check out this website to see a chronological view of how obesity has spread throughout the U.S. from 1985 to 2008 - it's disgusting how widespread it is!

The new movie Food, Inc. hits on some upstream issues associated with obesity, some of which are mentioned above in this posting. Cost of and access to healthy foods and environments are a huge issue; healthy foods cost more than unhealthy foods.

Agricultural subsidies are a huge part of this. The U.S. government pays farmers to grow tons upon tons of corn and soybean crops which lead to tons upon tons of high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated soybean oil, and feed for beef and pork. I did some fascinating research on this subject in grad school and found that many, many issues are intertwined to make this issue very complex.

Some links to get you started:
A report from UC-Davis
A NY Times article
A British Medical Journal article
"The Fat of the Land"
Food and Water Watch - a watch-dog type group
A Michael Pollan article

Happy reading! Now you'll see why I try to eat organic or grass-fed beef and chicken now. And why the Farm Bill should be called the Food Bill.

It's all connected. A very interesting topic.

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