A jarring article by Gary Taubes in Newsweek this week has left many feeling like the obesity crisis, one that America has struggled with for nearly a century, is going to be a continuous problem.
Taubes discusses HBO’s new documentary on obesity, Weight of the Nation, which is set to air on May 14th in a four-part-series. The documentary, which showcases a coalition of health experts from the non-profit Institute of Medicine, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Health, aims to tackle the growing numbers of obese Americans today.
Focusing on fundamental ideals as to why societies are overweight, Weight of a Nation tackles the major overarching theories — exercising, calorie counting, and watching our food intake.
Yet, Taubes claims that the documentary isn’t saying anything that we haven’t heard before.
He asserts that the doc focuses on an energy-balance idea – Americans indulge in too many calories, yet don’t “expend” enough energy to get rid of them. But he challenges this argument with a more scientific one, the Depression-era in New York, when food was scarce, yet Americans were still overweight. It was then, the 1970s, when health campaigns began to first wage war against it, seeking to examine the causes behind the epidemic.
Taubes analyzes it,
“As the extreme situation of exceedingly poor populations shows, the problem could not have been that they ate too much, because they didn’t have enough food available. The problem then—as now, across America—was the prevalence of sugars, refined flour, and starches in their diets. These are the cheapest calories, and they can be plenty tasty without a lot of preparation and preservation. And the biology suggests that they are literally fattening—they make us fat, while other foods (fats, proteins, and green leafy vegetables) don’t.”
He cites a lack of proper intervention with the fundamental problem.
“If this hypothesis is right, then the reason the anti-obesity efforts championed by the IOM, the CDC, and the NIH haven’t worked and won’t work is not because we’re not listening, and not because we just can’t say no, but because these efforts are not addressing the fundamental cause of the problem. Like trying to prevent lung cancer by getting smokers to eat less and run more, it won’t work because the intervention is wrong.”
So can we really win the war on obesity? What do you think?
Read more about it in Newsweek, here.