The obesity pandemic – slowly and silently – is killing more people in the world than the bird flu may ever kill. In United States alone, an estimated 300,000 individuals die annually from obesity and its complications such as diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer. According to the World Health Organization, globally, there are over 1 billion adults who are overweight (ten to thirty pounds over healthy weight) and 300 million of them are obese (thirty pounds over healthy weight).
It’s ironic how the global scale has tilted. There are more people in the world today who are overweight than those who are underfed. The reasons for such a global shift are simple. The global community is undergoing a transition from an agrarian society where exercise was part of daily activity to an urban society where exercise is a chore. Diets are also transitioning from complex carbohydrates, such as wholegrain breads, oats, pasta and brown rice to higher proportion of fats, saturated fats and sugars such as meats, cheese and coconut oil.
What are we to do?Personal changes are important, but government must also find the political will for a change. Denmark is a model example.In April 2006, a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine reported that an order of McDonald’s large fries and chicken nuggets contained 10.2 grams of trans-fat in New York and 0.33 grams in Denmark. This is mind-boggling when daily intake of 5 grams of trans-fat is associated with an increase risk of 25% from heart disease.The findings are a result of a legislation passed by the Danish government which restricted the use of industrially produced trans-fatty acids to a maximum of 2 percent of any fat in any food product. This policy change significantly reduces health risk with no complaints from customers.
When one of every five American meals is eaten out of a house, and when 40% of these meals are from a fast food restaurant, and when the world food habits are following a similar pattern, there is much we need to do to level the scale of the global pandemic of obesity. Maybe, we can have our take-out delivered from Denmark.