Obesity is a global problem and whole societies are getting fatter and fatter. It is no longer a personal problem but a crisis for everyone in the country. Obesity causes chronic illness and mobility problems and many countries blame the food industry.
How are other countries tackling this global problem?
Some countries have introduced food taxes: for example in Denmark, there is a tax on food high in fat. In the 1960s when the country became richer people began eating foods containing more fat. Now, for example, butter and cheese are more expensive and sales of butter have gone down by 14%.
The problem is that if you say high-fat food is bad for you then food companies will introduce more low-fat food: in the United States, although people have now taken to eating larger amounts of low fat food, these can be very high in sugar.
Margarine is an example of a highly processed food which has been intensively marketed as healthier than butter but butter is a far more natural food and can be eaten healthily in moderation. The body is complicated and needs a balance of all food groups
In the United States, many states already collect taxes on soda and other sweetened drinks, as part of anti-obesity efforts.
There is so much food around but what we want is healthier food. Food companies want to keep selling more and more in an environment where there is already so much food available. The fast food industry competes by offering larger and larger portion sizes. In New York some outlets are tackling portion sizes and banning the sale of extra-large soda drinks. Portion sizes have been rising for some time until the young hardly know what a normal potion size is anymore and need the older generation to tell them.
What does obesity mean?
The word obesity means the abnormal accumulation of fat. BMI, or Body Mass Index, is generally accepted as the best way to measure weight.
A BMI of over 30 is considered obese. Within a generation the simple, traditional, healthy diets of the past have changed in favour of western-style, high fat, factory-made food.
Rocketing levels of obesity are common in newly wealthy countries such as China, India and Brazil. In recent years restaurant chains and fast food outlets have arrived to cash in on the increase in wealth and the need for ready-made meals. Fast food thrives in countries where people are cash rich but time poor.
A recent survey of expatriates in the Gulf showed that they often gained weight after arriving in Gulf countries and according to consumer surveys in the Gulf, the main causes of weight
l Over-large portion sizes
l Large amounts of oil in cooking
l Snacking on unhealthy snacks
l Cheap fast food around the clock
l Carbonated or fizzy drinks and colas
l Lack of physical activity
Consider these causes and solutions to tackle the problems:
l For over-large portion sizes: Share your food
l For large amounts of oil in cooking: Use less oil. Bake or
l For cheap fast food around the clock: Only eat fast food as a weekly treat.
l For snacking on unhealthy snacks: Substitute factory made snacks by eating fruit, vegetables and nuts.
l Drinking carbonated or fizzy drinks and colas: Make water your main drink of the day.
l For lack of physical activity: Take a daily walk and always use the stairs for two floors; buy an exercise bike or join the
gym. (Alva Carpenter/Nutritionist and fitness expert based in the Gulf. Readers can send questions to alvathursday@natural healthlines.com)