Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We are Losing the Battle Against Childhood Obesity (Part 2)

Following on from my post last night... today's issue of Nature has an interesting Science and Politics essay entitled "Big lessons for a healthy future" by David King and Sandy Thomas. Here is an excerpt:

One of the most important findings of the Foresight obesity project is that individuals have much less choice in the matter of their weight than we may often assume. Our analysis shows that the current epidemic of obesity does not arise from individual over-indulgence or laziness. Instead, human biology has become out of step with the structure of society.

We evolved to respond to hunger by eating; we are only weakly able to notice, and stop when we have had enough. This was an effective survival strategy in prehistoric times when food was scarce. Now high-energy, cheap foods abound, as do labour-saving devices, motorized transport, sedentary work and the association of eating with indulgence. These conspire to create an 'obesogenic' environment. The increasing prevalence of obesity is a consequence of modern life.

These points reinforce the importance of "Taking People as They Really Are". The social contract for the 21st Century must be updated to include the new insights we have made concerning the factors (both environmental and genetic) that have an important impact on our health prospects.