Americans are heavier than ever before and, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) approximately 127 million adults in the U. S. are overweight, 60 million adults are obese, and 9 million adults are morbidly obese. Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems. Obesity increases the likelihood of various diseases, particularly heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties during sleep, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
It can be caused by many reasons. One obvious reason is the rise in fast food consumption that companies are so adamant on pushing the public to buy, especially children. With fast food chains creating more and more ways to entice the American public to eat their food, it is becoming harder and harder to stay in shape these days. The fast life of America is quickly taking its toll on the public with the silent enemy called obesity creeping up at an alarming rate. In fact, the rate of it overtaking our lives is so fast; the Surgeon General has called it an “epidemic”.
Now, the real question is- are fast food restaurants really the culprits at work here? In this essay I intend to compare two very different takes on fast food companies and their ways of making people fat as well as my stand on the matter. In the short essay “Don’t blame the eater” author David Zinczenko tries to explain why fast food restaurants are the main reasons for obesity in America. He starts by sympathizing with the overweight kids who are taking legal actions against McDonalds by comparing with his own 80’s portly self.
He explains that fast food is the easiest for- particularly teenagers who do not have any alternatives because of their parents’ assiduous lifestyles. While the author got a lucky break when he joined the navy reserves, he argues that most of the teens are not that lucky because they become ensnared in an unhealthy lifestyle. The author is seriously concerned about the deficiency of healthy alternatives in any given neighborhood. The essay deals with a lot of statistics to show the health hazards of obesity as well as the immense cost of it.
The author indicates that the absence of proper calorie labeling on the fast food items causes the public to unknowingly intake excessive calories. He also suggests that these chains intently withhold understandable calorie information- with an example of a company’s chicken salad. In spite of the apparent low calorie information that is labeled, the author proves that with the unlabeled dressing and a large soda that comes with it makes the calorie intake go off the charts. This essay criticizes fast food restaurants harshly for deliberately marketing towards children.
In the end, author David Zinczecko debates that it’s just a matter of time before state governments meddles in on account of the sharply rising cost of health care due to obesity. The second article that I would like to summarize is “What you eat is your business”, the author Radley Balko clarifies his opposition to regulating fast food industry. He presents politicians and their articulated plans of banning fast foods and sodas from schools across the country and all other anti-obesity initiatives.
For example, he is profoundly against “fat tax” on high calorie foods and menu-labeling legislation. This essay explicates how aggrieving the options of food available to the public is an incorrect way of fighting obesity. He believes promoting sense of responsibility in people is the best way to combat this epidemic. He compares America’s health care system to socialism by stating that our well-being is now a matter of “public health”. The author is clearly irritated due to our health care system demanding some people to pay for others medicines.
He explains how preventing the health insurers from charging higher premiums to overweight customers take away the stimulus to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The essay demonstrates how the public is becoming less self-conscious and more conscious about everyone else’s health. He argues that penalizing the food companies for unhealthy eating habits of the people paves the way to a socialist economy. The author’s opinion on the best way to fight obesity is to remove it from public health sector and to hold the public responsible for their own eating habits.
He suggests that letting the health insurers to reward or punish lifestyles is the best way to stop the socialization of medicine and health care, thus combating obesity. It may be difficult for many of us to empirically establish a causal link between fast food and obesity because our health, at the end of the day, is our own responsibility. But if we compare the theories that connect fast food to obesity with the vast amount of data that we already have, we can clearly see that fast food is the top reason why most of us are fat. I want to explain with one experiment that has been done recently.
In “The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity” (NBER Working Paper 14721), researchers Janet Currie, Stefano DellaVigna, Enrico Moretti, and Vikram Pathania undertake a careful study of the effect of fast food on obesity using the exact geographic location of fast food restaurants. The authors include women for whom they observed at least two births in their sample, so that they can examine whether changes in fast food access between one pregnancy and the next are associated with changes in the probability of excessive weight gain.
The authors use vital statistics data from 1989 to 2003 for Michigan, New Jersey, and Texas, the states for which they were able to obtain confidential data with mothers’ names and addresses. Turning to the results, the authors find that proximity to a fast food restaurant significantly increases the risk of obesity. For these mothers to be, having two fast food restaurants within 0. 10 miles of their household increases the probability of clinical obesity by 8. 3 percentages, overweight by 10. 6 and childhood diabetes by 1. 9 percentages.
It means out of every hundred newborns, two has diabetes because of fast food. Out of every hundred women, eight are morbidly obese; eleven are seriously overweight, again, because of fast food. And that’s just in one neighborhood. Fast food restaurants are quick to deny the blame that is being thrown at them by litigious consumers and health professionals. They have become typical in the past 30 years and practically all of America takes advantage of the cheap prices, quick service and tasty meals. Convenient as they are, these meals contain practically no nutrients.
They are made up of mostly saturated fats and refined carbohydrates and are packed full of sodium and sugar for addictive taste. According to CDC, an average adult shouldn’t have more than 65 grams of fat or 2000 calories a day. One meal from Burger King, a hamburger and French fries, has 50 grams of fat and 2000 calories, which is enough to fill someone’s fat and calorie intake for the day. Scientists report that study participants who visited fast food restaurants twice a week or more gained ten pounds and experienced double the increase in insulin resistance compared to subjects who visited these places less than once a week.
Worst of all, these fast food companies are blatantly targeting children with their colorful toys, clowns and playgrounds inside the restaurants. It seems to me that they are planting the habit of eating at their establishments in these kids as a long term investment. When kids grow up with this unsupervised habit of eating fast food, it is extremely hard to break. Many can argue why parents do not watch what kids are eating. The solution is not so simple, especially with the increasing amount of single parents who are extremely busy trying to manage everything by themselves.
Thus fast food becomes the best choice on the quick lunch and dinner menu. In conclusion, while it is clear that fast food restaurants are here to stay, we need laws that govern how they can go about their business. Many believe that it is best to educate people than actually trying to control fast food chains. While educating the public is obviously a good way to go, the best and economical approach would be to form laws that regulates their business. For example, our mayor Michael Bloomberg recently passed a law that bans selling of any soft drinks over sixteen ounces in fast food joints.
It’s definitely cheaper and more effective than visiting every neighborhood and schools trying to educate the public about the dangers of sodas. As heartbreaking as it is, with the technological singularity on the horizon, it will become increasingly difficult to mass control our sedentary lifestyle. Instead we can try controlling our intake of the food and for that we need a law. As the health care cost of obesity soars through the roof, I’m hopeful that at any moment now the federal government will have long needed regulations on fast food companies.