All too often, obesity prompts a strenuous diet in the hopes of reaching the "ideal body weight. Most people who lose weight regain the weight within five years. It is clear that a more effective, long-lasting treatment for obesity must be found. We need to learn more about the causes of obesity, and then we need to change the ways we treat it.
Taking a more global view, the prestigious British Medical Journal BMJ looks at various attempts to tackle obesity and notes that obesity is caused by a complex and multitude of inter-related causesfuelled by economic and psychosocial factors as well as increased availability of energy dense food and reduced physical activity.
The authors broke down the causes into the following areas: Food systems causes of obesity The main problem has been the increased availability of high energy food, because of: Liberalized international food markets Food subsidies that have arguably distorted the food supply in favour of less healthy foodstuffs Transnational food companies [that] have flooded the global market with cheap to produce, energy dense, nutrient empty foods Supermarkets and food service chains [that are] encouraging bulk purchases, convenience foods, and supersized portions Healthy eating often being more expensive than less healthy options, despite global food prices having dropped on average.
Marketing, especially food advertising through television [which] aims to persuade individuals—particularly children—that they desire foods high in saturated fats, sugars, and salt. The local environment and obesity How people live, what factors make them active or sedentary are also a factor.
For exapmle, Research, mainly in high income countries, indicates that local urban planning and design can influence weight in several ways.
For example, levels of physical activity are affected by Connected streets and the ability to walk from place to place Provision of and access to local public facilities and spaces for recreation and play The increasing reliance on cars leads to physical inactivity, and while a long-time problem in rich countries, is a growing problem in developing countries.
Social conditions and obesity BMJ noted here include Working and living conditions, such as having enough money for a healthy standard of living, underpin compliance with national health guidelines Increasingly less job control, security, flexibility of working hours, and access to paid family leave … undermining the material and psychosocial resources necessary for empowering individuals and communities to make healthy living choices.
Inequality, which can lead to different groups being disadvantaged and having less access to needed resources and healthier foods Back to top Addressing Obesity Globally, Nationally, Locally, Individually British celebrity-chef-turned-food-activist, Jamie Oliver, recently won the prestigious TED Prize for his campaigning in the UK to fight obesity.
His wish that the TED Prize speech asks him to share was to help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.
He explained this in his video: Teach every child about foodTED, February Given the complex, inter-related causes of obesity, addressing it also requires a multi-pronged approach: Dealing with inequalities in obesity requires a different policy agenda from the one currently being promoted.
Action is needed that is grounded in principles of health equity. Action must tackle the inequities in this system, aiming to ensure an equitable distribution of ample and nutritious global and national food supplies; built environments that lend themselves to easy access and uptake of healthier options by all; and living and working conditions that produce more equal material and psychosocial resources between and within social groups.
This will require action at global, national, and local levels. While important, on its own, they feel it is not sufficient; there is limited evidence for sustainability [of this direct approach] and transferability to other settings, for example.
Furthermore, the recent UK Foresight Report makes clear the complexity of drivers that produce obesity; it highlights that most are societal issues and therefore require societal responses. The therefore describes some examples of initiatives at these various levels: Addressing obesity at the global level This involves international institutions, agreements, trade and other policies.
A joint program of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, the experience of the Codex Alimentarius Commission highlights the challenges at international level.
The Commission was set up to help governments protect the health of consumers and ensure fair trade practices in the food trade. But challenges and obstacles persist. For example, industry representatives hugely outnumber representatives from public interest groups, resulting in an imbalance between the goals of trade and consumer protection.
In addition, Ensuring that global food marketing does not target vulnerable societies the BMJ feels there needs to be binding international codes of practice related to production and marketing of healthy food, supported at the national level by policy and regulation.
Emphasis added For example, regulating television advertising of foods high in fat or sugar to children is a highly cost effective upstream intervention. Addressing obesity at the national level National policies typically aimed at healthier food production include targeted and appropriate domestic subsidies.
For example, Norway successfully reversed the population shift towards high fat, energy dense diets by using a combination of food subsidies, price manipulation, retail regulations, clear nutrition labelling, and public education focused on individuals.
Mauritius relatively successful program includes price policy, agricultural policy, and widespread educational activity in various settings.
Ireland is an example of the also-needed multi-agency approach with their Healthy Food for All initiative seeking to promote access, availability, and affordability of healthy food for low income groups. Addressing obesity at the local level Examples of local level action the BMJ mentioned include The success of the Brazilian population-wide Agita Sao Paulo physical activity program which successfully reduced the level of physical inactivity in the general population by using a multi-strategy approach of building pathways; widening paths and removing obstacles; building walking or running tracks with shadow and hydration points; maintaining green areas and leisure spaces; having bicycle storage close to public transport stations and at entrances of schools and workplaces; and implementing private and public incentive policies for mass active transport.
The London Development Agency plans to establish a sustainable food distribution hub to supply independent food retailers and restaurants. However, a key challenge they note is the lack of systematic evaluation of initiatives, particularly with an equity focus, [which] makes it difficult to generalize policy solutions in this field.
So while there are many measures possible at many levels, a cultural shift in attitude is needed. The benefits of a healthier diet is obvious. Dean Ornish, a clinical professor and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, explains, the large number of cardiovascular diseases that kill so many around the world is not only preventable, but reversible, often by simply changing our diets and lifestyle:Obesity in children increases the more hours they watch television.
Children’s exposure to TV ads for unhealthy food products (i.e., high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks, fast foods and sweetened drinks) are a significant risk factor for obesity.
obesity rates to a policy strategy designed to reduce obesity through taxation of snack foods. Obesity Epidemic Obesity has reached epidemic status in the United States; it is not a trivial issue.
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Feb 07, · In Sweeping War on Obesity, Chile Slays Tony the Tiger. New regulations, which corporate interests delayed for almost a decade, require explicit labeling and limit the marketing of sugary foods .