The Growing Obesity Epedemic
Anyone who opens their eyes and pays attention knows there are more overweight people. We are told it is because we eat bad food and don’t get enough exercise. But is it really that simple? According to David Berreby maybe not.
And so the authorities tell us, ever more loudly, that we are fat — disgustingly, world-threateningly fat. We must take ourselves in hand and address our weakness. After all, it’s obvious who is to blame for this frightening global blanket of lipids: it’s us, choosing over and over again, billions of times a day, to eat too much and exercise too little. What else could it be? If you’re overweight, it must be because you are not saying no to sweets and fast food and fried potatoes. It’s because you take elevators and cars and golf carts where your forebears nobly strained their thighs and calves. How could you dodo this to yourself, and to society?
But what if humans are not the only species putting on weight?
Consider, for example, this troublesome fact, reported in 2010 by the biostatistician David B Allison and his co-authors at the University of Alabama in Birmingham: over the past 20 years or more, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America’s marmosets. As were laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. In fact, the researchers examined records on those eight species and found that average weight for every one had increased. The marmosets gained an average of nine per cent per decade. Lab mice gained about 11 per cent per decade. Chimps, for some reason, are doing especially badly: their average body weight had risen 35 per cent per decade. Allison, who had been hearing about an unexplained rise in the average weight of lab animals, was nonetheless surprised by the consistency across so many species. ‘Virtually in every population of animals we looked at, that met our criteria, there was the same upward trend,’ he told me.
So what’s going on. We live in an increasing man made chemical soup. We breath it, we drink it, we eat it and it comes in contact with our skin. Our rivers and hence our drinking water is full of not only industrial chemicals but prescription drugs. The meat that we eat is full of hormones and antibiotics. We ingest so many man made compounds and increased levels of natural compounds that there is no way to anticipate their reactions and inter reactions. Does our diet of processed foods and a lack of exercise put us at risk? Of course it does. But is that the entire story? Something to think about! What do you think about it?
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