Health / Nick Chowdrey

Our Big Fat Problem

You don’t have to be a highly skilled, forensic detective to see that obesity is on the rise. The twenty person queues outside fast food restaurants and increased sightings of waddling lardoids struggling to fit into crowded places makes it obvious enough. Indeed, the issue is pretty inescapable; especially when the mainstream media tends to latch on to the topic in the same way that a child, who has been suckled on Big Macs instead of breast milk, latches onto a greasy burger.

The stodgy truth is that, here in Britain, two thirds of the adult population are overweight, with one in four medically classed as being obese. Indeed, the issue is so overwhelming that it has ceased to be just a personal or national health problem and has ballooned into a global issue, to the point where more people in the world today are overweight than undernourished.

A recent research paper published in the BMC Public Health journal theorises that the world’s obese could have the impact of an extra billion people on global resources. It is an obvious aspect of obesity that the more you eat, the more mass you acquire, and the more you eat to sustain that extra mass; a perilous looping trap that seems to be increasingly easy to be caught within. But how and why have we let this become such a massive issue?

If you think about it, it’s no surprise that obesity is a problem in a global economy that specifically relies on excessive consumption. Indeed, the BBC recently aired the first part of a documentary series entitled ‘The Men Who Made Us Fat’ – a challenging exploration, (although the Beeb would not want to describe it this way), into how capitalism has ruined our health.

The first instalment of the series was all about corn syrup: a cheap sweetener, which was initially introduced in the USA during the 70s and today is present in almost any processed sweet foods across the world. This product is extremely high in fructose, a type of sugar that plays havoc with our bodies, producing an effect which is basically a type of addiction. Not only does this cause us to eat more, but it’s also directly responsible for weight gain, because the excess energy resulting from a high fructose diet is stored in the body as fat.

The documentary suggests that there is a direct correlation between the specific type of uncontrollable obesity that is sweeping the sword and a high fructose diet. This is not that hard to believe when you find out that the USA has one of the most sugar-fuelled diets in the world and, by the same token, is responsible for a third of the world’s obesity, despite accounting for only 6% of the world’s population. On the other hand, hop across the Pacific to Japan and you find a country with one of the lowest rates of obesity, where the average national diet consists mainly of whole foods and fish.

Of course, other factors such as exercise, genetics and lifestyle can all account for someone being overweight but, even so, this scientific research and data goes a long way to unveil the root cause of the problem. In our current economic system, factors such as health and the environment are treated as mere externalities; the pursuit for profit forever taking centre stage. Obesity is just one more symptom of this global malaise. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a little more than cutting down on chocolate and cycling to work to make it all better.

Nick Chowdrey

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