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Thread: Global obesity

  1. #1 Global obesity 
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    Obesity rates climbing worldwide, most comprehensive global study to date shows -- ScienceDaily

    The whole world s getting heavier. Interestingly, though, the USA, which is the world's fattest nation, has plateaued out over the past 5 or so years. Other countries are catching up. My country is bad, though I suspect the reason is that NZ has more polynesians than any other place, and polynesians are the worst. (They have a metabolism that conserves calories - a genetic difference).

    What of the future? Will the rest of the world end up where the USA is, with a third of the population obese, and then plateau out also? Or will some become even more obese?


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    I was waiting until this documentary series finished showing here before mentioning it. We've now had two of the total three segments shown.

    It's amazing to see how the change in food advertising and in the foods themselves - portion size as much as anything - have happened so rapidly. (Though I think most of that stuff is in episode 2.)

    Worth watching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6nGlLUBkOQ


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    I miss the ability to buy a reasonable sized burger without it being on the kid's or weight watchers menu.

    And it does appear all developed nations are heading the same way as America though I'd hope other nations might avoid the government backed collusion with the food industry to avoid some of the problems.

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    The UK is not one of the 10 shamed countries, but half of UK citizens are predicted to be obese by 2030.
    Unfortunately I can't see any will by the politicians to do something about it. I estimate that collectively the MP's the the House of Commons are about 6 tons overweight themselves. So they wouldn't, would they. Let them lead from the front!
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    The UK is not one of the 10 shamed countries, but half of UK citizens are predicted to be obese by 2030.
    Unfortunately I can't see any will by the politicians to do something about it. I estimate that collectively the MP's the the House of Commons are about 6 tons overweight themselves. So they wouldn't, would they. Let them lead from the front!
    I can't prove this, but politicians and business men only want one thing - MONEY!

    So they all collude together making huge profits out of cheap raw materials, and the business men keep the politicians onside with freebies, posh meals, (hence their waistlines), holidays, etc. etc. so they won't ban any of it. Look at tobacco.

    If ANY of them had one iota of conscience or a desire to treat the population properly, sugar and its more dangerous forms would be heavily taxed.

    They care not one jot that the "man in the street" dies at a premature age, they only care about themselves.

    OB
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    Quote Originally Posted by One beer View Post
    If ANY of them had one iota of conscience or a desire to treat the population properly, sugar and its more dangerous forms would be heavily taxed.
    Taxing is pretty ineffective at changing behavior. Done in combination with harder regulations for truly dangerous things being used by the food industry, and education for parents that play the biggest role in shaping people's taste and lifetime habits, it probably makes sense. Taxes can also be used the other way, as an incentive for businesses such as the many parts of the US where getting quality nutritious food is difficult or impossible without reliable long range transportation.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; June 1st, 2014 at 03:26 PM.
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    On taxes

    I do not know about on food, but tobacco tax does cut down smoking, as a number of studies show.
    When tobacco tax goes up, more people try to give up smoking, more succeed, and fewer take it up.

    Here in NZ, our tobacco is very heavily taxed. It now costs roughly $1-00 per cigarette. Each rise in tax reduces the total number of smokers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    On taxes

    I do not know about on food, but tobacco tax does cut down smoking, as a number of studies show.
    Never seen one. Can you link.

    I did find this metastudy (study of studies for others that might not know the term), that shows an extremely small effect.

    There is a general consensus among policymakers that raising tobacco taxes reduces cigarette consumption. However, evidence that tobacco taxes reduce adult smoking is relatively sparse. In this paper, we extend the literature in two ways: using data from the Current Population Survey Tobacco Use Supplements we focus on recent, large tax changes, which provide the best opportunity to empirically observe a response in cigarette consumption, and employ a novel paired difference-in-differences technique to estimate the association between tax increases and cigarette consumption. Estimates indicate that, for adults, the association between cigarette taxes and either smoking participation or smoking intensity is negative, small, and not usually statistically significant. Our evidence suggests that increases in cigarette taxes are associated with small decreases in cigarette consumption and that it will take sizable tax increases, on the order of 100%, to decrease smoking by as much as 5%. (JEL I18, I12)
    DO HIGHER TOBACCO TAXES REDUCE ADULT SMOKING? NEW EVIDENCE OF THE EFFECT OF RECENT CIGARETTE TAX INCREASES ON ADULT SMOKING - CALLISON - 2013 - Economic Inquiry - Wiley Online Library

    --
    I think that taxes are usually relatively ineffective means to effect behavioral changes, particularly when there's addition involved, but that it might work is carried by the liberal press and happily reinforced by politicians because it makes them appear to have more influence than they really have on society by doing relatively simple things.

    --
    When tobacco tax goes up, more people try to give up smoking, more succeed, and fewer take it up.
    Correlation or causation? Probably two things that account for the low impact of taxes (from the study above), most folks take up smoking before they can purchase the product legally--this tends to obscure any direct effect of tax cost; they other of course is most attempts to give up smoking fail.

    Unhealthy food has similar characteristics both taken up by children and hard to break.
    --
    My home state, Maine has had a snack tax for more than 20 years. Studies have shown no effect.
    "
    Although the regression model for the interrupted time series design was significant, the findings did not provide any significant results for independent variables that could help identify and interpret a relationship between the snack tax and obesity rates for Maine."https://digital.library.txstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10877/3670/fulltext.pdf

    All that being said, it might be reasonable policy if as a form of compensation for increased cost to tax payers from less healthy people, but its effects on changing behavior are tiny.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; June 1st, 2014 at 04:25 PM.
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    Effects of Tobacco Taxation and Pricing on Smoking Behavior in High Risk Populations: A Knowledge Synthesis

    Lynx

    The strongest effect, as the above study shows, is preventing new smokers. It is tougher to stop older and heavily addicted smokers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by One beer View Post

    If ANY of them had one iota of conscience or a desire to treat the population properly, sugar and its more dangerous forms would be heavily taxed.

    They care not one jot that the "man in the street" dies at a premature age, they only care about themselves.
    Why stop at sugar? Why not the rest of the happy meal - red meat, bread, cheese, potatoes, the oil they're cooked in, the salt sprinkled on top? Food is a little different from cigarettes, which really can't be used safely in any amount. How does one single out one food item and demonize it?

    There's always a bit of elitism in the attacks on fast food. An plate of Fettuccine Alfredo in a nice restaurant has about 75-85 grams of fat, and 1220- 1400 calories, but I never hear people demanding a fancy restaurant tax.
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    To Diane

    My approach is always to be pragmatic. You do what will achieve the greatest effect. Currently ( and arguably) the biggest impact on obesity and diabetes in western societies (and increasingly, everywhere else) is sugary drinks, such as soft drinks. A tax on the amount of sugar in those drinks makes a lot of sense to me. At least those kids who have less money will end up buying the cheaper, lower sugar, brew.
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    Well does anyone foresee that we will not in fact get a solution to this problem? That it will in fact get worse in the medium term because all conceivable measures will be ineffective or unacceptable (socially or politically)?

    I think it is accepted that if you live with people who are a certain weight then your own weight has a tendency to align itself with theirs .If this is indeed the case the what we call overweight will come to appear the normal weight in the future as the average weight continues to increase - and everyone's weight may tend to increase by this kind of osmosis .

    As a corollary overweight parents or overweight people in positions of power may not find it so worrying that young children should be overweight .

    The whole thing may be a vicious circle and note that when an individual tries to loose a lot of weight it is a very difficult and likely demoralizing thing to attempt.

    If societies as a whole try to go down the same path then they may find it extremely difficult to shrink their collective waistline.

    Clearly in the societies we are emerging from being fat was not really an option but it is probably going to be quite possible to live comfortably while being (in today's eyes ) very overweight (especially if it has become the social norm).

    If an individual becomes so obese as to need more daily care than an old but otherwise fairly healthy person then another barrier has been crossed (when there are a significant amount of these people).

    I can't imagine what choices society will have at that point but I do know that at present it is necessary to loose weight in order to be allowed to have certain operations as they can be too risky otherwise.

    Also ,at the risk of being facetious is it possible to correlate weight gain with increase in population?

    If the average weight increased from 70 kilos to 105 kilos would that be tantamount to an increase of population of 50% ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    To Diane

    My approach is always to be pragmatic. You do what will achieve the greatest effect. Currently ( and arguably) the biggest impact on obesity and diabetes in western societies (and increasingly, everywhere else) is sugary drinks, such as soft drinks. A tax on the amount of sugar in those drinks makes a lot of sense to me. At least those kids who have less money will end up buying the cheaper, lower sugar, brew.
    It generally isn't even actual sugar. It's high fructose corn syrup, but it and sugar are in lots of things that don't taste all that sweet - baked beans to chicken fingers, almost every cereal (even All Bran), bread, ketchup, pickles, yogurt, apple sauce, soup, salad dressing, etc. so you're raising the price on a lot of food, or forcing companies to use artificial sweeteners.

    But really, I just don't feel the ends justifies the means here. Taxes were intended to pay for services that private interests can't do, won't do, or aren't trusted to do. Taxes were never really intended as a punitive tool to shape and mold human behavior, to pressure people into conforming, and discourage behavior that is completely legal but disapproved of. And it's a hypocritical practice that is mainly directed at lower income people, and in my opinion, anti-democratic.

    Cigarettes shouldn't be taxed. They should just be illegal to manufacture. Any other food, drug, cosmetic, house hold cleaner with its known effects would be.
    Last edited by DianeG; June 1st, 2014 at 09:58 PM. Reason: typo
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    Quote Originally Posted by DianeG View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by One beer View Post

    If ANY of them had one iota of conscience or a desire to treat the population properly, sugar and its more dangerous forms would be heavily taxed.

    They care not one jot that the "man in the street" dies at a premature age, they only care about themselves.
    Why stop at sugar? Why not the rest of the happy meal - red meat, bread, cheese, potatoes, the oil they're cooked in, the salt sprinkled on top? Food is a little different from cigarettes, which really can't be used safely in any amount. How does one single out one food item and demonize it?

    There's always a bit of elitism in the attacks on fast food. An plate of Fettuccine Alfredo in a nice restaurant has about 75-85 grams of fat, and 1220- 1400 calories, but I never hear people demanding a fancy restaurant tax.
    When you get a chance, watch that doco I linked to. In the meantime, just look at the graphic Lynx showed at #3.

    The biggest issue, far and away, with fast food is not that it's fast, nor that the quality is unwonderful. The obesity relevant issue is the portion size. That 42 oz drink contains at least 40 teaspoons of sugar - 40 5ml teaspoons = 200mls. That's not far off a metric cup of sugar, in the drink alone. Just reducing the size of each of those components of a meal back to something like the size they were back in the 50s and early 60s would be a good start.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    The obesity relevant issue is the portion size. That 42 oz drink contains at least 40 teaspoons of sugar - 40 5ml teaspoons = 200mls. That's not far off a metric cup of sugar, in the drink alone. Just reducing the size of each of those components of a meal back to something like the size they were back in the 50s and early 60s would be a good start.
    I absolutely agree. It is a marketing strategy - people will pay more for food they don't even really don't want if it's a "better deal" than ordering less or ala carte. Car companies do the same thing. "For just a little more, you can also get...." But how do you counter that with some kind of punitive tax?

    Ironically, I think fast food places are being forced to respond to the desire for smaller portions. They still feature the "value combos" but have also started offering "snack size" items or junior burgers which are about the size that entrees used to be.
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    The obesity thing is definitely related to portion size, but even more, to the absolute availability of food. Not all obese people live off McDonalds. Some cook at home. But food is now so cheap and abundant that even at home people eat more.

    Diane, I understand your qualms about tax. But my view is that what works is what works. Both for garnering funds and for altering behaviour. Tobacco taxes are offset by the extra health care costs of addicts, and it is only fair that tobacco users pay the extra tax. Sugar tax, if it reduces over consumption, justifies itself. I do not believe that bans work, except to provide an income stream for street gangs and other illegal sellers of drugs.

    Geordief
    I doubt that obesity will continue to rise indefinitely. It has already stopped rising in the USA with about a third of the adult population obese. I suspect that something similar will happen elsewhere. I also suspect that a solution to the problem will arise, and it will be pharmaceutical in nature. Probably a pill to stop us feeling hungry. After all, people who have had stomach stapling surgery no longer have the appetite they once did, and lose weight, and that loss of appetite is believed to be caused by a change in hormone balance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by geordief View Post
    Well does anyone foresee that we will not in fact get a solution to this problem? That it will in fact get worse in the medium term because all conceivable measures will be ineffective or unacceptable (socially or politically)?
    Hard to tell at this point.
    But we could start with putting into play many of the measures that are finally reducing tobacco use. It's not only taxes, which it seems tends to at least work for a small number of poor, and education, and better medically directed advice (the other thread that show overweight isn't the problem--but obesity certainly is), but also going directly at the heart of the industry and restrict advertising and shelf placement specifically aimed at children.
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    I don't have a weight problem but I do have trouble turning down things that I know aren't really healthy (heart disease runs in my family) and I do crave sweet or salty foods and chocolate and cheese. When I was in the hospital last year I had all my nutrition through an iv for a while. I didn't experience any hunger, and that kind of surprised me. Of course my room mates' meals weren't all that tempting, but I still found it odd that I didn't start to crave certain things until after they disconnected me.
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    I watched the last episode of that 3 part series last night. That's when the presenter really gets stuck into the business-politics link in a big way. It's mainly UK stuff of course, but it rang bells with a couple of things that have happened recently in Australia with staff/officials in the national health portfolio having direct personal links with people involved in food/food industry/advertising activities.

    Some cook at home. But food is now so cheap and abundant that even at home people eat more.
    One simple way to cut down portion sizes is to check, and maybe change, the size of your dinner plates. If you look at a second hand shop or, especially, an antiques shop you'll see that a "full-size" dinner plate is often as small or smaller than what now passes for an entree or sandwich plate. One trick that nursing homes use to 'trick' older people with poor appetites into eating more is to put their normal size serving onto a very large plate. They'll happily eat most if not all of a meal that they'd complain of as too much if it had been served on a smaller plate. Our perception of too little, enough, too much food is often dominated visually by how it is served.

    Which is where the notion of when and what and how to eat becomes important. Eating on the street or out of a packet on the couch is more or less invisible to us. Putting everything we eat onto a serving dish/plate/ bowl - as small as possible to hold the food securely - and then concentrating on eating and nothing else would go a long way to making people feel satiated on a lot less food than they now consume without even noticing.
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    Just to complicate matters - the obesity pandemic is across species, and is evident in lab animals (which have an extremely controlled diet) and wild animals in close proximity with humans. So its not just portion size, lack of exercise, lack of will etc as behaviour that would not have made you fat 50 years ago now seems to predispose you to weight gain.
    As is often the case with technical subjects we are presented with an unfortunate choice: an explanation that is accurate but incomprehensible, or comprehensible but wrong.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post

    One simple way to cut down portion sizes is to check, and maybe change, the size of your dinner plates. If you look at a second hand shop or, especially, an antiques shop you'll see that a "full-size" dinner plate is often as small or smaller than what now passes for an entree or sandwich plate. One trick that nursing homes use to 'trick' older people with poor appetites into eating more is to put their normal size serving onto a very large plate. They'll happily eat most if not all of a meal that they'd complain of as too much if it had been served on a smaller plate. Our perception of too little, enough, too much food is often dominated visually by how it is served.

    Which is where the notion of when and what and how to eat becomes important. Eating on the street or out of a packet on the couch is more or less invisible to us. Putting everything we eat onto a serving dish/plate/ bowl - as small as possible to hold the food securely - and then concentrating on eating and nothing else would go a long way to making people feel satiated on a lot less food than they now consume without even noticing.

    The cutlery experiments are interesting too. Generally, food tastes better on heavier, more expensive cutlery, with the exception of yogurt which was judged denser and better tasting from a lighter, plastic spoon. The color of plastic spoons affected peoples perception of taste.
    Some other oddities:
    Knives make cheese taste saltier than forks, spoons, or toothpicks.
    Hot chocolate tastes better in orange cups.
    strawberry mousse tastes "10 percent sweeter and 15 percent more flavorful on a white plate than on a black plate."
    Angular dessert plates make things more seem more tangy, rounder plates sweeter
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    While much of the world lacks for enough to eat, even our pets now suffer from obesity and the market has been quick to respond with pet foods specifically for calorie restricted diets for indoor and aged pets. Cats, dogs and even horses are prone to weight gain when fed on processed foods and have limited exercise. I feed my horses three times a day and adjust their intake to the weather and their exercise regime so as to maintain them at optimum weight.

    We have a culture that equates 'caring' with 'sharing' and so we are easily prevailed upon to replace time spent with our animal companions with food 'treats' and our pets are quick to learn to reinforce our propensity for this behavior. My horses do not get oats every day, yet they will bunt their grain bucket several times a day and make eye contact with me while doing so, in the hopes of receiving a food reward.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Effects of Tobacco Taxation and Pricing on Smoking Behavior in High Risk Populations: A Knowledge Synthesis

    Lynx

    The strongest effect, as the above study shows, is preventing new smokers. It is tougher to stop older and heavily addicted smokers.
    Once addicted to nicotine, smokers find it very difficult to stop smoking permanently, because, as I understand it; their brains have physically altered to require external nicotine in order to function under stress. Friends I've known who have given up smoking for years start again when some personal crisis happens.

    If taxes are not effective in reducing activity - but I think they are to some extent - then an easy way to reduce tobacco consumption and improve the health of the population would be to raise the minimum age one could buy or smoke cigarettes to 25. I think people would be less likely to start smoking at 25, and because their brains would be less able to change to adapt to the nicotine, I don't think they would get addicted so easily. However, the politicians would never let this happen because of the reasons I suggested before.

    With calorie intake, portion and plate size do play a part, as adelady says, and eating out of packets where one cannot assess the amount one has eaten is a very good point to make. Eating on reasonably sized plates, round a table, where one can see how much one is eating has to be a good thing for monitoring portion control, and is presumably why we were all generally thinner in the 60's and 70's when we ate plated food together 'formally' instead of helping ourselves from the fridge and snacking in front of the TV.

    Snacking is a problem in itself and has become prevalent owing to the marketing people. In my local supermarket, products are now actually labelled as "sharing snacks". There are two problems with this. One is the snacks themselves are very high in sugar, fat or salt - low in fiber, and the other is the promotion of snacking.

    Then there are genetic differences. Some people from African or Polynesian descent appear to have very very efficient physiology, (if that's the right word), so if they eat a 'western' diet, they take in far more calories than their bodies need, the excess being stored as fat.

    OB
    Last edited by One beer; June 7th, 2014 at 09:28 AM.
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    The soda and chip companies have been offering sales on their products because of the Stanley Cup and FIFA World Cup playoffs and knowing that a significant percentage of the populace likes to follow these sports. When the pricing of the triple sized bag is only pennies more than that of a regular one portion bag, well of course the frugal shopper is going to opt for the larger sized product and most will also eat a larger portion simply because they have the visual reassurance of plenty more where that came from. Plenty of sports parties happening and an endless chip bowl is a prerequisite at any that I recall, which is going back some years now, lol...

    Salty and sweet, chips and soda and of course the more one eats, the thirstier they will soon be afterward so one intake of excess calories begets the other. I can enjoy a handful of chips a couple of times a year at work when some close dated product gets taken up for the staff. I only eat the plain chips (potatoes, oil and salt) and those ones seldom are left over. Usually we get lots of putrid flavors and I do not care to ingest the many components that go into their making.
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    Although a lot of people tend to think of Americans as being obese, it was interesting the other day in Florida. On our stop overs, we stay at Altamonte Springs and the folk one sees there are fairly trim, only the odd one or two is obese.

    However, at the airport, we (the crew) were waiting for our aircraft and meanwhile the english passengers for a flight to East Midlands (in the centre of England) started queuing next to where we were seated. About 80% of about 340 passengers were significantly fat, and many of those looked obese.

    OB
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    Quote Originally Posted by One beer View Post
    Although a lot of people tend to think of Americans as being obese, it was interesting the other day in Florida. On our stop overs, we stay at Altamonte Springs and the folk one sees there are fairly trim, only the odd one or two is obese.

    However, at the airport, we (the crew) were waiting for our aircraft and meanwhile the english passengers for a flight to East Midlands (in the centre of England) started queuing next to where we were seated. About 80% of about 340 passengers were significantly fat, and many of those looked obese.

    OB
    Yes we have a growing obesity problem too in the UK now. And it seems to be partly regional. In Central London people are fairly trim, but there a lot of patches around the Midlands where poor diet seems to be prevalent. The Brits, due I suppose to language (film, TV etc), seem to picked up easily copied bits of American lifestyle more rapidly than the Continentals.

    As it happens, there's a drive on at the moment to stop UK children drinking soft drinks with their meals - a habit most on the Continent would consider barbarous.
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    Quote Originally Posted by One beer View Post
    Although a lot of people tend to think of Americans as being obese, it was interesting the other day in Florida. On our stop overs, we stay at Altamonte Springs and the folk one sees there are fairly trim, only the odd one or two is obese.

    However, at the airport, we (the crew) were waiting for our aircraft and meanwhile the english passengers for a flight to East Midlands (in the centre of England) started queuing next to where we were seated. About 80% of about 340 passengers were significantly fat, and many of those looked obese.

    OB
    In this part of the world, you will not observe obese people walking about excessively. They tend to use public transit and will be found in greater numbers at locations where they can make their purchases. I have also observed that an increasing number of overweight people are actually starting to read the labels and make alternate purchases so hopefully the message of 'eat healthier options' is gradually starting to filter through. A lot of Canadians tend to hang out in Florida as well so perhaps they are influencing the sample group that you observed?
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