In America, obesity is now a national health crisis with costs estimated into the billions, and the UK is catching up at an alarming rate. Three out of five Americans are overweight, and over 300,000 of them will experience a health condition that is directly caused by obesity. Experts predict that this number will continue to inflate and will surpass tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death in the USA. In Britain one in five people is now classed as clinically obese; a proportion of the population which has tripled in 20 years. There are many factors that have contributed to this growing problem, not least of which is the fast-food industry. On any given day one in four Americans will feast on greasy burgers, fatty fries and syrupy soft drinks. Another factor to consider is television, as the average American spends over six hours a day watching the ubiquitous box, and the automobile. Yes, the humble car, which has made people’s lives so easy in getting from A to B – no-one has to walk anywhere anymore. Only one in five people get all hot and sweaty working out on a regular basis.
The problem is extremely evident in the young, where the number of overweight children is up about 50% in the last 15 years. During that time, there has been an explosion in the amount of programming on television as well as an explosion in the popularity of video games. Co-incidence – or not? The concept of “McDonaldisation” is a relatively new one and has been blamed for over 20% of the world’s population being clinically obese. The widespread of availability of junk food is largely to blame, according to Dr Stanley Ulijaszek, from Oxford University. Speaking at a conference in Boston, Dr Ulijaszek said “McDonaldisation means that dietary change can proceed faster in some places than ever before. The fast food culture is extensive and it’s even predominant in countries such as Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands”.
Companies who manufacture junk foods should not be made to pay out healthcare costs for those suffering from illnesses due to obesity. What they should do, however, is provide healthy alternatives next to the unhealthy ones so that people can make an informed and educated choice about what they eat. If both types of food are offered, no company can be made to pay for someone suffering ill health due to being overweight. Advertising unhealthy products on television could be limited and while these are good possibilities, they are not very likely to happen.
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