Obesity rates in the United States have increased dramatically in the past two decades – so much so that manufacturers of everything from clothes to coffins are now super-sizing. But did you know that the entire increase can be explained by three Oreo cookies a day? The trouble is that calories accumulate so holding caloric expenditures constant even a small permanent increase in calories consumed can lead to serious weight gain over long periods of time. Food is getting cheaper and work is becoming more sedentary so it is going to be very difficult to control weight gain. I review some of the recent economic literature on obesity here.
Despite a number of government programs, for example, Swedes continue to get bigger just like everyone else.
For years, this nation of nine million has had the sorts of programs, combining healthy diet and physical exercise, that antiobesity advocates elsewhere in the world dream about. Vending machines in Swedish schools are practically unheard of. TV commercials of any kind aimed at kids under 12 are banned. Schoolchildren as young as eight learn to cook healthy meals. Sports programs are heavily subsidized to get youngsters up and about. But Swedish children are plumping up at alarming rates anyway. The number of kids who are overweight has tripled in the past 15 years — roughly the same rate as in other European countries — to 19% of boys and 15% of girls.
I suspect our only real hope is better tasting fat and sugar substitutes. So far I am not too impressed but I do recommend Russel Stover’s low-carb mint patties.