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The Necessity of National Policy Changes for Mitigation of Obesity Issue

Obesity is a problem of modern hi-tech society. Improved transportation technologies, the availability of transport combined with food technologies catering to people’s taste have resulted in an overall prevalence of calorie consumption over expenditure. Although some consider that physical fitness, good health, and healthy food are a personal choice of every individual, the roots of the problem are much deeper as proven by the universal distribution of obesity, its obvious connection with the socioeconomic status and education level, and high rates in the groups depending on social aid programs. Alongside with the sound opinion that every individual should take responsibility for his or her health, the modern scientific community believes that obesity is a global issue of an epidemic scale with social and financial roots, which requires a cardinal change of food policy worldwide known from proposal essay topics.

It took long for the medical community to recognize obesity as a medical condition and a social issue. Only in the early 2000s, the scientific society became aware of the epidemic character of obesity in the United States. A decade later, researchers started to indicate the galloping rates of obesity worldwide. As the awareness of the problem increased, the researchers realized that the problem was more than the individual cases of excessive weight. The statistical data showed that its significance spread to the national scale levels. It was proved that obesity provides a favorable background to the development of various diseases. Moreover, it compromises the cardiovascular system, respiratory apparatus, musculoskeletal system, and metabolism. The statistical research “Years of Life Lost Due to Obesity” conducted by Fontaine et al. in 2003 sums up different assumptions about the impact of obesity. Furthermore, the sampling allowed detecting the correlation between YLL due to obesity and such markers as race, age, and gender. According to the findings, overweight young people lost more years of life than older ones irrespective of the degree of obesity. For example, white men aged 30 to 40 suffering from severe obesity could lose about 22 % of their expected life span, which constitutes 13 years. For white women of the same age and weight category, the expected life loss was eight years. In the case of black males or females, only severe obesity resulted in a shorter lifespan. However, a different pattern in Afro-Americans could arise from other variables that determine YLL. Generally, the YLL in overweight men was significantly larger than in women. Although the studies like the one conducted by Fontaine et al. did not reveal the reasons of obesity, they allowed detecting regularities and provided a specialized database for further research.

The patterns discovered in the course of data analysis revealed socioeconomic causes of obesity in the early 2000s. In their article “Poverty and Obesity: The Role of Energy Density and Energy Costs”, Drewnowski and Specter (2004) establish the connection between obesity and socioeconomic status that defines the level of income and education. According to their findings, the households with lower income and health awareness prefer energy-dense diet that is rich in fat and sugar and contains low-cost and low-quality ingredients. High contents of sugar and fat are associated with higher energy intake. Finally, food insecurity makes low-income households reduce their spending on healthy food such as fruit, vegetables, or whole grain. Individuals with poor dietary culture, low family income, and low food security chose food that is rich in fats, oils and sugar, as well as refined grains, potatoes, and beans because those lowest-cost options provided dietary energy at minimal cost. In the period under research, 64 % of adult Americans were overweight, and the share of the low-income population was disproportionally high. Since low-income families are recipients of various social programs, the authors suggest that the roots of the problem are in the food policy of the United States. Consequently, the material status dictates food choices more than the level of awareness, which connects the issue with social policy and raises it to the level of the national concern.

Statistical research of all age and gender groups conducted in different countries provides evidence of the universal and global character of obesity and suggests the countries’ food policy as one of its roots. Although, strictly speaking, it is not a disease, its momentum reaches an epidemic scale. In 2008, statistical records registered nearly 1.5 billion overweight and obese adults worldwide. Furthermore, the projection to 2030 predicts 2.16 billion overweight and 1.12 billion obese adults globally. Such catastrophic rates cannot be explained by an individual or even racial predisposition to obesity or by multiple different choices. Obesity affects the populations of the countries with both high and low level of welfare, as well as urban and rural areas and all age and gender groups. Surprisingly, even poorly nourished and undernourished population, which depends on aid programs, is the most vulnerable to obesity. Obesity rates in developing countries catch up with those in the USA. The group of scientists stated on the grounds of statistical data of the “rapid increases in the rates of obesity and overweight” in both urban and rural areas throughout the world, from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to wealthier nations. Consequently, the pattern of food choices of low-income American families reveals similarity with the dietary preferences of low-income people all over the world. Finally, most low-income respondents spent their limited food dollars on energy-dense foods.

The cheapness, diversity, viability and a rich taste of unhealthy food supported by convincing advertising misguide people in their dietary choices, which brings the issue of obesity out of the personal competence. As long as food industry caters for biological preferences of the human organism and the advertising is taking into consideration biological preferences of the human organism, it is not surprising. Biologically, human beings prefer sweet and fatty food as it flatters the taste and increases the feeling of satiety. Moreover, the mechanisms of thirst and hunger are not linked. Food technologies cater for the biological preferences of humans and offer cheap food rich in fats, sugar, and calories. Moreover, the innovations in all phases of exertion eliminated movement from almost all human activities. Therefore, the development of obesity cannot be reduced to the socioeconomic factors alone, though it definitely depends on the level of awareness, food security, and financial possibilities.

Although it is generally considered that physical fitness, good health, and healthy food intake are a personal choice of every individual, the American experience proves the contrary or at least is a more complicated matter. Obesity growth is halted in the USA, although the rate remains high and demands supervision. Ogden et al. confirm that excess weight among children and young adults in 2012 remained mainly on the same level as in 2003. However, the percentage of overweight and obese individuals among children aged two to five years reduced significantly. Although obesity rates remained high and accounted for 17 % of children and one-third of adults, the authors note the tendency to the stabilization of the problem. However, obesity rates did not show any falling tendency.

The positive tendency in the USA became possible only due to the large-scale publicity company sponsored by the government and significant changes in the food policies. Initial efforts directed at the promotion of the healthy lifestyle did not give a satisfactory result because they were not combined with consistent and comprehensive policies in other fields. Health messages regarding the dangers of obesity … have not produced the desired effect. Drewnowski and Specter list the availability and affordability of healthy food, television advertising, pricing policies, promotion of healthy lifestyle, etc. among the factors of influence. Therefore, to achieve any significant result on the global scale, nations should revise their food policy and set countering obesity as a top priority.

The issue of obesity can be a problem for individuals. Although it is generally considered that physical fitness, good health, and healthy food choice are a personal business of every person, researchers prove that obesity is a global issue of an epidemic scale with social and financial roots. It requires cardinal change of food policy worldwide because of its universal distribution, obvious connection with the socioeconomic status and education level, and high rates in the groups depending on social aid programs. There are many factors influencing the individual choices of the population. At the current level, it is a global problem, and its solution should involve actions on the national and international levels. Therefore, the nations should revisit their food, social, and health policies, increase the level of awareness about obesity, and invest in promotion of healthy lifestyle on the national level.


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