In other news, I'm really enjoying The Men Who Made Us Fat and The Men Who Made Us Thin.http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01k0fs0http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b038913v
Watching these documentaries it is pretty easy to understand our current dramatic rise in obesity levels. One factor was an increase in agricultural food production in the 70's, leading to more abundant, cheaper food often filled with high fructose corn syrup (in the USA) or sugar (in the UK and Australia). The issue being both overconsumption and that sugar interferes with appetite and can lead to people eating more.
Another issue has been the fixation on fat as the cause of obesity and the prevalence of "low fat" foods where fat has been replaced with sugar... often with a higher calorie count per serve than the full fat equivalent but with the perception that it is "healthier", leading people to consume more.
Meanwhile, food manufacturers used advertising campaigns to promote the idea of snacking between meals. Snacking has become socially acceptable where before it was frowned upon. It reminds me of a trip to the movies where in the quiet parts of the film the sound of people grazing sounded like a paddock.
Because people were not already eating enough, cinemas, fast food chains and supermarkets decided to introduce supersizing, value meals, king-size snacks and multi-buy promotions. The issue here is that if people buy it they will eat it.
Meanwhile the food industry lobbied government health policy to target activity levels and not consumption as a solution to obesity.
More recently, the food industry has release a range of high calorie foods that are marketed as being more "healthy". One "healthy" lunch of a bottled smoothie, Pret “no bread sandwich with rocket and lentils” a granola yoghurt from “Eat” has more calories than a "junk" lunch of coca-cola, Big Mac and crispy creme doughnut. Yipes! Besides the salad, it all looked like junk food to me but apparently the average consumer thinks they can eat more of the "healthy" food because it is lower in calories.
There is also some controversy about food labelling and whether labelling foods with Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) or a traffic light system – red for high; amber for medium and green for low is more helpful for consumers to eat better food.
Another interesting development was height and weight charts for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company which define ideal body weights on the average for 25-year-olds in 1942 and updated in 1983. The American Government shaped its health policy according to these charts which focussed people's attention on weight rather than other indicators of health. From this, the diet industry thrived and more people than ever started dieting. Over the long term, "dieting" has proven a very ineffective way of reducing and maintaining body weight. In addition, there is not much evidence to support the idea that "losing weight" translates into long term health benefits. The business model of the diet industry is built around client failure. Client success would mean a death of the industry. Another factor is that yo-yo dieting actually makes people fatter.
At the same time, the exercise industry experienced rapid growth. We were told that exercise assists weight loss "eat less, exercise more" although repeated studies have failed to establish a link between exercise and weight loss in the long term.
It's ok if diet and exercise don't work for you though. Science has the answer in the form of bariatric surgery.
I haven't finished the entire series so I don't know if there are any "answers" as such but if you look at the causes of obesity then the solution should be to do the opposite:
1) stop eating so much processed food
2) if you do eat processed food, make sure it is low in added sugar
3) control your portion size
4) limit snacking
5) don't "diet" then go back to "normal" eating
6) exercise for the health benefits and not to "burn off" that chocolate bar you ate with lunch
7) don't be sucked in by the hype that "healthy" processed food is good for you.