Obesity and Fast Foods
Obesity and fast foods - there's little doubt about the link. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United states. And it's an epidemic that has grown side by side, step by step with the the fast food industry.
Eric Schlosser in his brilliant and shocking book, Fast Food Nation, describes the US as "an empire of fat," and he lays the blame for this clearly and convincingly at the door of the fast food industry.
Twice as many American adults are obese today as in the 1960s. More than half of all adults and a quarter of all children are now obese. Over this same period, fast food has become cheaper and easier to buy.
Obesity and Fast Foods - a Global Crisis
Further evidence for the link between obesity and fast food can be found outside the US. Since the early 1980s, American-style fast food culture has spread like wildfire around the world... And obesity has followed, accompanied by its many unwelcome side effects: heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other ills.
As people in countries like Japan and China have abandoned traditional healthy diets in favour of fast food, the rates of obesity and associated diseases have soared.
In countries which have resisted the spread of fast food culture, like France, Italy and Spain, obesity is far less of a problem.
The good news is that there is now more awareness about the ill effects of fast food than ever before, thanks in part to books like Fast Food Nation and documentary movies like Morgan Spurlock's popular and punchy Super Size Me.
There also seems to be a genuine change in people's attituded to to food and how it is produced. As Schlosser says modestly of his book: "its success should not be attributed to my literary style, my storytelling ability, or the novelty of my arguments.
"Had the same book been published a decade ago, with the same words in the same order, it probably wouldn't have attracted much attention. Not just in the United States, but throughout western Europe,people are beginning to question the massive, homogenizing systems that produce, distribute, and market their food. The unexpected popularity of Fast Food Nation, I believe, has a simple yet profound explanation. The times are changing."
What can we do about fast food and obesity?
So what can we do to as consumers to tackle the problem of obesity and fast foods?
First, we can stop supporting the traditional, unhealthy fast food chains. Let's rather buy from outlets that sell healthy alternatives. More and more of these restaurants and delis are opening. There should be at least one near you. Support it!
Another thing we can do is to lobby our congressperson (or MP or some other political representative if we're in a country outside the US) to ban all advertisements that promote foods high in fat and sugar to children.
As Schlosser points out, prevention is far better than cure. "A ban on advertising unhealthy foods to children would discourage eating habits that are not only hard to break, but potentially life-threatening."
Such a ban may sound far-fetched, until you remember that 35 years ago a ban on cigarette advertising sounded equally unlikely. Five years later Congress banned cigarette ads from television and radio. And those ads were directed at adults, not children.
Smoking has declined ever since.
It's time we did something similar with obesity and fast food.
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