Not only that, but obesity is starting to be a big problem not just in rich, developed countries but in developing nations such as China, where there is a major shift going on with diets moving toward animal products and vegetable oils. Professor Benjamin Senauer of the University of Minnesota explains:
‘The biggest increases are being seen in parts of Asia with certain populations more susceptible than others. If we do not get to grips with this, problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are going to increase rapidly.’
He is urging governments to fight the problem. He raises issues such as a tax on certain calories and subsidies for production of fruits and vegetables. He also points out that in low-obesity Japan, they spend 25% of their money on food as opposed to 14% in the US.
But there are other factors: Japanese cities are designed for walking and mass transit, whereas the US suburban lifestyle minimizes walking.
Of course, in a democracy you can’t solve a problem without the political will to do so. People chatter all the time about wanting to eat right and get in shape, but, in most cases, they lack the willpower to actually do it, at least on a sustained basis. Will they support social policies that force them to do what they know is good for them anyway?
Sometimes this can happen. The reason for laws against gambling is not that most people hate gambling and so want to outlaw it. The reason is that most people are tempted to gamble but recognize that it is not good for them, and so they vote to be taken out of the path of temptation.
Unfortunately, as evidenced by the rapid spread of legalized gambling, there is scarcely a person alive who can remember that way of thinking. Today, I fear, people do not really want to eat well. They certainly don’t want to be forced to eat well; they want to eat whatever they want and then take Lipitor to solve their problems.
This does not bode well for the good professor’s proposals.