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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Ignorance is at root of obesity

WHAT we eat has been much in the news recently, and while the horsemeat in burgers scandal has provided lots of fun, another food-related story largely slipped under the radar.

Louise Allonby
Louise Allonby

Public health minister Anna Soubry announced that it is now easy to identify society’s poor people because they’re most likely to be fat.

“You can almost tell someone’s background by their weight,” the minister claimed last week. “Not everyone who is overweight comes from deprived backgrounds,” she added, “but that’s where the propensity lies.”
The minister blames an abundance of bad food for the obesity epidemic – and with a third of children leaving primary school overweight or obese, it seems fair to describe this as an epidemic – coupled with the cheapness of junk food and the demise of social eating within families.

She has a point, not least in terms of the modern preference for family members to eat different things, at different times, often in front of the telly.
Grazing from the fridge or eating takeaway food has become the norm for too many families, many of whom no longer possess a dining table.

But is it all really about cost? Is processed and junk food so markedly cheaper than fresh food that it is financially unviable for millions of people to buy the latter?

I have my doubts, and prefer the theory that the obesity epidemic is more about ignorance and laziness than financial poverty.

In a “value” supermarket in Barrow a few days ago I was struck by how cheap the food was. Really good quality fruit and veg were fantastic value – and for the price of a large frozen pizza or a few loaves of processed white bread, shoppers could easily acquire a week’s worth of fresh produce.

Interestingly, the confectionery aisle of that supermarket was the busiest by a notable margin.

The theory is often raised that poor diet occurs because people living in the poorest areas simply don’t have access to cheap, fresh, nourishing food.

But as one commentator (a doctor who has worked in some of the country’s most deprived areas) pointed out, so-called “food deserts” in poor areas are the result of “ignorance, incompetence and indifference,” rather than financial poverty.

“If [drugs] can reach these areas,” said Dr Theodore Dalrymple, “surely the humble lettuce can, too”.

Processed food and fast food have their place of course – and I say that as someone who thinks that people who dislike McDonald’s are missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.

But when junk food becomes the staple diet of children (and their parents), it is a real problem for society.

There is a clear correlation between poor diets/obesity and a whole raft of health problems. This puts a strain not just on those people in our society who seem hell-bent on eating themselves into an early grave, but on an already over-burdened health service.

Food for thought, indeed.

Have your say

Right on dicky: Can't wait until they start having a pop at the skinny and anorexics, wonder what your pearls of wisdom will be then???
The way i see it, if being fat makes yer happy then so what? Good even, because that means one less unhappy person in the world and that can't be a bad thing now can it?

Posted by Mike on 6 February 2013 at 11:38

In the fifties there was only one lad in my class at the tech - fatty - - - - -,so what he was just one of the lads.
Only one girl out on the town was fat,she was good hearted and always laughed.
Fast junk food and sitting in front of the box watching soaps or on their machines for hours on end goughing on delivered to the
door take aways.
No exercise,no properly cooked meals,it doesn't take a lot of working out.
The obese two abreast,take up the footpaths
shopping aisles with stocked up junk food for a couple of days.
Cars damaged because of the inabilty of these obese individuals unable to get out
of their motors,so they shove the doors wide open,into another car.
We have just about taken over from the Americans as the fattest country of all,
sit on any bench for ten minutes,and more
obese people go past,then slim.
Get to thirty stone,then the dear old NHS will give you a gastric band,that you yourself is responsible for,but free of charge.
So the average size person,pays for the fat.

Posted by dicky on 5 February 2013 at 17:11

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