How Do We Reduce Obesity?

While I agree with Dr Jennifer O'Dea's view that a tax on take away food is useless in reducing obesity, I strongly disagree that obesity is exaggerated. Look around; there are overweight children and adults at every turn. She admits that children from low income families have twice the rate of obesity of those from middle and upper income families. The reason why this is so should be ascertained. It is hard to believe that small income families spend more on junk food in real and proportional terms.

Dr O'Dea says we should not become emotional about the issue because that is unscientific. Perhaps we do need to be more emotional. The scientific approach is not doing much good. It is true that the problem should be tackled from the top - down. It is parents who can impress upon their children to eat better. Today, high sugar food is so readily available. In the 1960s and before many families didn't have a refrigerator. When children wanted a sugar fix they had to go to the corner store and get an ice cream or soft drink. Overall consumption of these products was lower. These days children consume such things at breakfast. It is indeed the case that some households don't keep tea and coffee in the kitchen cupboard. Coke is drunk at exceedingly high rates.

To say obesity is not increasing is lying with statistics. Fat children become fat adults. In 1985 approximately 1 percent of girls and boys were obese. This increased to about 5.5 percent in 1996. To say everything is okay because it has levelled off at this rate since is very, very wrong. There is a serious problem. A near obese child is an obese child. If the near obese are included the rate rose from 11 per cent to 23 per cent from 1985 to 1996. In 1996 the saturation point was reached. It probably can't get much worse.

Dr O'Shea says Pacific Islanders are genetically overweight and they are developing more muscle. This is nonsense. They clearly are fatter. Evolving on Pacific Islands has made them "susceptible' when they take to eating high calorie food. The natural diet for them in the past was fish. Research has shown that heart disease rises far above the rate for non-Islanders when they move from Pacific islands to New Zealand, adopt the Western lifestyle and eat the "bad" foods. Saying that the body mass index cam be high when we are taller is another "mythical" statement. When the BMI is high we are fat.

Few scientists try to find out why the lower socioeconomic strata is fatter than the wealthy. Social pressure is the main factor in determining lifetime food preferences of people, what is learned, in other words socialization. It is not really a "what can we afford" issue. Giving the poor more money will not change anything. Giving children a good breakfast when they get to school has achieved nothing. Many children just ate two breakfasts, one at home another at school - they got fatter. The lack of exercise contributes to obesity. Today, doing exercise at school such as sport is an option for children. It should be compulsory as it was years ago. Making such school exercise non-competitive is ridiculous. This is just one group of people forcing their silly ideas on others. Calling for restrictions on behavior is out of kilter with societies moving toward more freedom.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .