Blog: “Obesity is the norm”

Catherine Sleep | 15 August 2006

There are now more overweight people in the world than hungry ones. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that starvation is a thing of the past; there are 800 million malnourished people worldwide. It’s just that there are an even greater number of people with the opposite problem. Over a billion people on this planet are obese or overweight as a result of too much of the wrong kind of food and too little exercise.

These statistics were released by Professor Barry Popkin of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, who said the change had happened quickly as obesity was rapidly spreading, while hunger was only slowly declining among the world's 6.5bn population.

He told a conference: "Obesity is the norm globally and under nutrition, while still important in a few countries and in targeted populations in many others, is no longer the dominant disease." Popkin calls on governments to take action on obesity, perhaps even by manipulating prices to steer people towards healthier choices.

This is always an option but I think it’s disingenuous to draw too strong a comparison between the causes of and solutions to hunger and obesity. The hungry person mostly has no choice in the matter but the overweight have too much choice. Marketing and education play a role, but obesity generally comes down to willpower. Or lack thereof, more to the point.

International Association of Agricultural Economists


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