How’d we get so fat so fast? Fifth in a Series: Food & Politics and the 2012 Elections

By: John Verlinden/TRT Cuisine Writer–
We’re in the midst of an epidemic in America. Two-thirds of us, 190 million people, are overweight. More than a third of adults are obese, and one in six children is obese. It’s a growing concern.

Since 1980, adult obesity has more than doubled, while obesity among children and adolescents has tripled. On average, we now consume over 500 more calories per day than we did just 25 years ago. Where will we be 25 years from now?
This is a complex problem with many contributing factors, including what and how much we eat, how much we exercise and our socioeconomic status and our genes, so finding successful interventions isn’t going to be easy. But this is a problem we need to control; the costs are high.

We know that as weight increases, the risks for coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers, stroke and other chronic illnesses also increase. The financial impact alone is staggering – obesity-related diseases already cost us nearly $150 billion in medical expenses annually. But what’s even more troubling is that, unless we find a way to reverse this trend, our children may be the first generation since the Civil War to have a shortened life expectancy.

What will you ask of the politicians seeking your vote when it comes to this national emergency? Just as we don’t want government in our bedrooms, no one wants the “food police” in their kitchen or dining room.

But is there an appropriate role for government when it comes to maintaining our nation’s physical health, especially when it comes to children? We’ve relied on “personal responsibility” alone for many years and that simply hasn’t worked. Should government reevaluate its farm policies and subsidies? Should government increase nutrition education efforts? Should it step up food product labeling requirements? Should it tax junk foods and sugary drinks, and then spend the money on research and treatment? Or is less government with fewer market controls more likely to bring positive change?

Next month we’ll take a look at food-product labeling issues. Share your thoughts, ask a question or suggest a topic for a future article – contact me: or visit and join our food forum.
Until next time – ¡Mucho Gusto!, ¡Muchas Gracias! y ¡Buen Provecho!

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