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Old 06-09-2004, 10:20 PM   #1
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America, your belly is too big

Title shamelessly stolen from a Morrissey song.

Last month, the highly influential journal "Science" printed a paper titled "Public enemy number one: tobacco or obesity?"

You do not need to look hard for accompanying evidence.

Science, in a February '03 editorial said this:

Quote:
In 1998, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States found that 97 million U.S. adults (55% of the U.S. population) were considered obese or overweight. The Surgeon General issued a "Call to Action" on the obesity problem, but it drew a lackluster response from the responsible federal agencies, and Americans continued to consume an average of 3800 calories per person per day, or about twice the daily requirement. It is now estimated that over two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight.
They also argued that:

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U.S. dietary styles and food habits have been exported so widely around the world.

...

Europe...Mayans in Guatemala, South Africans, aboriginal Australians, and Pacific Islanders also show patterns of emerging obesity.
In a paper titled "The Ironic Politics of Obesity", Marion Nestle argues that

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Food companies are well aware of the economic implications of reversing the obesity epidemic, as are government agencies. Economists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calculate that "large adjustments" would occur in the agriculture and processed food industries if people ate more healthfully. That threat is one reason why food producers contribute generously to congressional campaigns, and why federal agencies have failed to take the obvious first step: a national obesity-prevention campaign in response to the Surgeon General's 2001 Call to Action.
In Journal Watch ("An update on the obesity problem), Komaroff argues that:

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For now, faced with a biological drive and a marketplace that encourage us to overeat and underexert, the best hope for dealing with the obesity epidemic might be political: restrictions on marketing junk foods, particularly to children; taxes and calorie labels on junk foods; and changes in the farm subsidy laws to encourage production and consumption of grains, fruits, and vegetables. One can assume that resistance to such changes will be enormous.

So, what, if anything can be done here? Are people simply free in a free society to literally eat themselves to death, or should the government step in? Is it moral to consume twice the daily caloric need when people elsewhere are starving? Should the government divert funds to battling obesity given that there is an argument put forth in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) saying that 435,000 Americans die per year of obesity, while comparatively speaking, 400,000 people die of tobacco exposure? Why is it that there are anti-smoking ads everywhere, photos of underdeveloped premature babies, rotting teeth and black lungs yet there is a McDonald's on every corner, crap at the grocery store and a Double Big Gulp with 46 tablespoons of sugar at the local 7-11?
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Old 06-09-2004, 10:50 PM   #2
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I reckon it's kind of ludicrous to expect or ask the government to not step in. If approximately 97 million people are not making wise decisions regarding their eating habits, it is only a matter of time before an individual's problem becomes one for society and the government. But then, America does not have much in the way of assistance in health care. So if Americans are happy to keep eating such shitty food, then suck up the costs of your health care as your government sure as shit wont help.
Someone has to pay, for the effects bad eating has. Individuals eventaully pay with their health or their lives, but the cost on society is huge. Per capita, Australia is just behind or even just ahead of America with obesity. We're a nation of boomsticks. Sport is our religion, and we don't have the wide range of bad food America does, but somehow we're still as fat as a Life Be In It advert.
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Old 06-09-2004, 11:51 PM   #3
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Re: America, your belly is too big

Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
[B] Is it moral to consume twice the daily caloric need when people elsewhere are starving? [B]
Actually, the fattening food is much more readily available and cheaper. If you try and eat right it costs a lot more.
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Old 06-10-2004, 12:27 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
I reckon it's kind of ludicrous to expect or ask the government to not step in. If approximately 97 million people are not making wise decisions regarding their eating habits, it is only a matter of time before an individual's problem becomes one for society and the government. But then, America does not have much in the way of assistance in health care. So if Americans are happy to keep eating such shitty food, then suck up the costs of your health care as your government sure as shit wont help.
Someone has to pay, for the effects bad eating has. Individuals eventaully pay with their health or their lives, but the cost on society is huge. Per capita, Australia is just behind or even just ahead of America with obesity. We're a nation of boomsticks. Sport is our religion, and we don't have the wide range of bad food America does, but somehow we're still as fat as a Life Be In It advert.
From what I have experienced, Australians drink more beer than anyone on the planet. Maybe that explains it.
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Old 06-10-2004, 01:45 AM   #5
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Ha, Aussies do consume a rather large amount of the worlds beer supply but we have also started to eat crap as well.

The local shopping centre near me has just added 100 shops including
* a gigantic pretzel shop (not the normal kind of pretzel, these things are all floor and sugar)
* a donut shop
* upteen coffee shops that make huge creamy coffee food/drinks
* a takeaway cake shop - they serve little boxes of individual cakes in them
* a Baskin and Robbins or whatever its called ice cream shop.
* a KFC

etc

We didnt used to have all these crappy choices before. I think it says something. The shopping centre is obviously expecting this kinda crap to sell.

They did also add a Subway, a noodle house and an Indian restaurant but all of these are outside so if its too hot or is raining you cant get to them.

I agree with the comment that junk food is cheaper than good food. It is.

I dont know how this trend can be reversed except for encouraging shopping centres to put the healthy shops on the inside of the centre and the crappy ones on the outside instead of vice versa.
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Old 06-10-2004, 01:50 AM   #6
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Many years ago when I was at University my taxation law lecturer suggested that the system of determining an individuals tax payable was unjust. It doesnt encourage savings.

He suggested that we should be able to look at the size of a persons beer gut and tax them more the bigger their gut was.

Not a bad idea really.
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Old 06-10-2004, 03:27 AM   #7
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I'm sorry but I'm afraid I can't get too worked up about topics like this, especially when you realise what the literature considers 'obese' (ie. you can be perfectly fit but simply the wrong shape and/or height, you'll be classed as morbidly unwell).

Worry about terrorists or something. Oh, that's right, we already do.
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Old 06-10-2004, 04:02 AM   #8
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a couple of days ago it was announced in the news over here that dutch supermarkets will make a conscious effort to try and shift at least part of their marketing campaigns on fruits and vegetables instead of on beer, chips and other fattening food because they recognize their contribution to increasing obesity

it remains to be seen whether they will indeed stick to this and what the effects exactly will be
but at least it's sending out the right signal

it is a problem society should attack
and if society isn't willing then the government should step in because of the effects this has/will have on our populations health and - perhaps to a lesser extend - in the long run on our healthcare system and economy
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Old 06-10-2004, 05:37 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
Sport is our religion
Watching sport is our religion.

Have you heard about the debate in Brisbane about the 90+ kg under-11 footballer whose team had to forfeit ... because the other teams were worried he might hurt the smaller kids? If that kind of thinking doesn't turn people who really need the exercise off sport, I don't know what does.

And another person who wrote a letter to the paper today about why doesn't the government subsidise gym memberships? Fair enough, but I think we need to get past the idea that gyms are the only places to get exercise. Walking or jogging are free, you can do them anytime and it doesn't even have to be considered "exercise" - take a nice stroll along the beach, walk to work one day, etc.

I agree, there are too many fast-food shops and too much junk food advertising on TV, too many enticing things to watch on television, too many computer games to play, it's always too hot, it's always too cold, it's always raining ... I believe that governments can make an effort to tackle to obesity issue, but in the end it has to be a personal decision.
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Old 06-10-2004, 06:02 AM   #10
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I think something has to be done. Obesity not only contributes to many deaths, it makes other health problems like arthritis worse. I've lost 25 lbs. since June of last year. I did it with a high-green (especially lettuce), low fat, low cholesterol (since my doc was on my case about my cholesterol and I didn't want to get arteriosclerosis) diet and exercise. It wasn't the easiest thing I ever did, but I did it. They could have public service advertisements and such about education about good eating habits, encourage exercise, and more. I think it's worth it.
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Old 06-10-2004, 06:07 AM   #11
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I think the government should interfere in this one. Not something Im normally for but in this case, yes. It would be good if the government could tax McDonalds and other creators of health problems the same way tabacco companies are taxed.

I work in safety & health and we really do so little health. If we do ever run a seminar etc its usually poorly attended.

I think most people know that they should be eating their greens and not so much crap but at the end of the day takeaway food is a nice release from household chores.

If good food was somehow cheaper than bad food then perhaps, over time, some people may switch.

Oh and some employers are now salary packaging gym membership as a recognition that their staff will have less sick days off work if they are fitter. But its still not as wide spread as it could be.
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Old 06-10-2004, 06:57 AM   #12
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Is it moral to consume twice the daily caloric need when people elsewhere are starving?
It's like the old comment, don't waste your food there's kids starving in other countries! But it's not like we can bag it up and take it over to them. My aunt won't run her air conditioner when she's suffering from the heat because she feels guilty some people don't have one. If you get into that, is it right for some people to have millions of dollars when many of us can't even make their monthly bills?

I am a food addict, the way some people are drunks or drug addicts. I use it as a comfort, a pleasure, a consolation. I look forward to it. I know that's not the way you're supposed to be but a lot of people are not the way they're supposed to be and the government can't force everyone to be a certain way. Taxing McDonalds won't help, they'll only run their prices up and pay their workers less but they will make their profit. Cigarette taxes, and recent high gas and milk prices prove that paying more doesn't stop anyone anyway.

There are lots worse things a person can do than get fat, or eat too much. There are many more people who need to be stopped or controlled for much worse things than eating and being fat. Cheer up, maybe it won't end up to be a burden on anybody, us US overeaters might not last long enough. We might all just drop dead in the floor and you'll only have to worry about who's going to pick up the old carcass and haul it off.

(footnote: in the last year, I know 2 women personally, friends of the family, who were 55ish and overweight and literally dropped dead in the floor, one at work, one at home)

I don't think it's 'morally right' to resent health care for people who got sick because of their lifestyle choices. It's not just food, the booze and cigarettes do a lot too, not to mention drugs and casual promiscuous sex that can cause AIDS and deadly forms of hepatitis. Why is it only the fat people who are deemed unworthy of health care because of lifestyle?
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Old 06-10-2004, 07:07 AM   #13
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Originally posted by beli
I think the government should interfere in this one. Not something Im normally for but in this case, yes.
It's always interesting how people are so vehemently opposed to the government in personal lives when it's something they don't want to happen yet it's okay if it suits you and doesn't offend you. It can't be both ways. Either the government sticks its nose into our personal lives, or it doesn't.
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Old 06-10-2004, 07:40 AM   #14
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I dont think anyone here is against health care for overweight people as such, more it is voicing concerns on the heavy cost on society. As for the other examples you listed, they are doing their fair bit to strain as well, but not half the population.

Buffalo was that person by any chance against personal health cover too? That is a handy lure by MBF et al to get more people in. The government will never match what these big insurance companies offer, simply because our government is not a business who's sole aim is to milk us for cash - well not precisely anyway. That said, the govt don't want to fork out for the long arsed list of problems associated with obesity either like mature onset diabetes, liver, kidney and heart disease, high cholesterol, strokes, heart attacks etc etc etc. Medicare is already crippled so it might not be a choice soon for the govt.

But this is about America, not here. We all need to get off our fat arses and do some simple excercise. If we dont, we wont have to worry about terorists as we'll already be dead. Maybe Hussein should have opened an Ali Burger chain.
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Old 06-10-2004, 02:49 PM   #15
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Originally posted by U2Kitten


It's always interesting how people are so vehemently opposed to the government in personal lives when it's something they don't want to happen yet it's okay if it suits you and doesn't offend you. It can't be both ways. Either the government sticks its nose into our personal lives, or it doesn't.
Its the sheer numbers, thats why. Most other 'things' are no where near on the scale of obesity.

The other alternative is deny them health care - which is a bit rough. A former clients wife had a lung transplant - and continued smoking, something that I thought was completely unjust. If she wanted a new lung and the option of living it should be on the basis that she stopped smoking.

I feel the same way about most things. If you want health cover then you should do your best to make the best of it.

I used to work in workers compensation and we have had cases where the claimant has complained about their own doctor telling them that their injury would improve faster if they lost weight. So instead of listening to their choice of doctors advice, they would whinge about the doctor. If I was the insurer I would cut their funds then and there.
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