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Why Everyone’s Getting Fat

April 12, 2012

Dr. Alan Meyers knows.  Dr. Meyers is a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and a professor at the BU School of Medicine.

Last week he gave this presentation at a Northeastern University public policy class on “Food & American Society”.  It was as succinct and well-documented as any presentation I recall in making a strong, simple, clear case for the origins and causes of a complex social problem—in this case, the obesity epidemic.

You could watch the video (about 20 minutes), or skim through the PowerPoint slides (here—scroll down to April 4 for the pdf file).  Or you could spend 30 seconds reading the summary after the jump.

1 – 1973:  In response to a worldwide grain shortage and unprecedented food price inflation, Pres. Nixon* and Agriculture Sec. Earl Butz changed farm price support policy.

2 – As a result, total US food supply increased by about 500 calories (kcals) per person per day, leading to increased consumption of about 200 calories per person per day over the past generation.  (One pound of body weight = approximately 3,500 kcals.)

3 – The food industry got Americans to consume an additional 200 calories per person per day by:

*increased dietary added sugars
–high-fructose corn syrup
–sugar-sweetened beverages
*increased portion sizes
*increased caloric density
–fast food
*relentless marketing, especially to children

Origin and causes of public policy issue identified.

Everything else (this is my interpretation, but I think it’s fairly close to what Dr. Meyers argues) is just window dressing.

If that’s true, then the question is:  how do we change farm price support policy so that incentives for overproduction disappear (without creating incentives for underproduction in a world with a growing population)?

*Why does everything go back to Nixon?


From → Food, Politics

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