It seems every nation of the world is experiencing an obesity epidemic. In 2009 a Newsweek article estimated that obesity was costing businesses $45b annually in medical expenses and lost productivity.
Amounts of food consumption and exercise are believed to be the main determinants of weight control, but this may be too simplistic a view.
In particular, it may not simply be the quantity of food, but the way in which it is grown, harvested, and processed. A radical new theory has emerged that our food is becoming increasingly toxic to our bodies and that obesity is a natural form of defence; the body would rather store dangerous elements as fat, rather than risk running them through major organs.
For example, the rampant use of sugar, salt and chemicals (for preservation, consistency, and taste) could be throwing a Malatov Cocktail at our own metabolic processes.
The controversy over GM foods and the manner in which they are fashioned, deployed and tested could reveal interesting insights in the coming years. The enormous pressure to feed increasing populations from shrinking arable land will ensure a prosperous future for GM foods, but this will, also, invite much abuse (if it hasn't already).
Cultural values are at play, here, too. Once upon a time in the western world, being fat was "voluptuous" and beautiful. This remains true today in many developing countries. As a nation as a whole becomes larger, being fat becomes more acceptable. US garment sizes have already been re-calibrated to make people feel less self-conscious about their body size, despite the fact that an 'L' would equate to an 'XXXL' in many parts of Asia.
Some are clambering for an obesity tax - either put onto foods that are believed to be the culprit, or on people who are above a certain weight. The justification for this is that obesity is a huge drain on the economy and healthcare - not to mention, extremely detrimental to the person in question.
However, this presumes that obesity is a person's "fault"; that it comes from a lack of self-control. While this may be true in some cases, it's more likely that obesity is a systemic problem of some kind, involving many factors. It's easy to say that being fat is someone's fault when they're in the minority; less so, when they are the norm.
Given that obesity is now pandemic, it seems a good time to put it on the political agenda. What should we do? What can we do?
What do you think...?
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It should come as no surprise that there is a bias against obese people in our society. This was confirmed by a new study published by the Harvard School of Public Health in which 3,300 children where studied for 10 years from the age of kindergarten in order to see what role weight-gain played in their academic performance. They discovered that although weight-gain had no effect on their test scores, it did result in negative evaluations by their teachers. In particular, this teacher fat-bias resulted in poor evaluations for girls' reading skills and boys' math skills, suggesting a gender bias, as well. Also, assessments of boys' reading abilities were lower if those boys were heavier to begin with, as opposed to those who were just starting to gain weight.
For the most part, weight gain did not affect student confidence in themselves with one exception: girls who became overweight by age 10-11 experienced a sharp reduction in confidence in their math skills when compared to those who had already been classified as overweight to begin with.
Although not part of this study, there have been numerous reports of weight-related bullying in schools, which can have an adverse affect on self-confidence and academic performance.
Obesity has a variety of knock-on affects when it comes to anxiety and depression with higher suicide rates among the obese. Furthermore, they tend to get less education overall and fewer attend graduate school than the norm. This negative impact is more pronounced for girls. Indeed, when they entire the workforce, overweight women are less likely to be hired, more likely to be fired, more likely to receive poor assessment appraisals, and earn less money for the same work.--David G. Wilson
Dr Stephenie Senef, a senior research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, spoke at a recent Congress on Autoimmunity in which she detailed neurological problems (including autism) stemming from inefficient supplies of sulphate to the brain. In her research, the brain uses sulphate for a variety of purposes, one of which is to cleanse it of toxins and heavy metals, such as aluminium (commonly used as a preservative in vaccines) and mercury.
The actual mechanism is complex, but it involves the pineal gland. Interruptions to the pineal gland's functions, result in sleep disorders and, worse, problems involving neurological functions and development. When these problems occur, the patient becomes more sensitive to aluminium levels in their body, which could result in damage from vaccines that use aluminium.
Why this is relevant to food, however, is that glyphosate is commonly used in Roundup and other herbicides in food production, especially involving GMO's that are resistant to glyphosate. If glyphosate found its way into the body, it would interfere with how the body manages sulphur. It also allows aluminium in the body to become more toxic. Furthermore, it kills preferential bacteria in the gut - an ecosystem we are just beginning to learn the benefits of.
Intriguingly, Dr Senef has mapped the increase of autism, vaccine reactions, and the use of glyphosate in crops within the US and found that all three match up perfectly (increasing by the same amounts year on year). While this does not prove cause and effect, it warrants further investigation. Could it be possible that GMO herbicides are having a severe neurological impact on our brains and our metabolism?--David G. Wilson
I'm interested in reading the book, "The Big Fat Surprise". Apparently, it confirms the growing consensus that eliminating fat from people's diets has led to the obesity epidemic, because it has been replaced with sugar and carbohydrates, which is far more detrimental. In fact, US carb intake is said to be 25% higher than it was in the 1970's. Eating fat makes people less likely to crave eating more, which is the other problem with eating carbs (which, ultimately, end up as sugar, anyway). There is a brewing war on refined sugar, too, since it has such detrimental affects on the body, but is used copiously in processed foods.--David G. Wilson