Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Searcher: Energetics and Obesity

This week, through lectures and readings, we have learned about energetics and obesity – specifically, that obesity is linked more to overeating than physical exercise because compared to hunter-gatherers, our energy expenditures have remained fairly constant…but our energy intake has increased.

Influenced by discoveries from the World Health Organization, multiple sources agree that, “Exercise is great, but to get the weight down, Americans have to adopt the ELF diet. Where ELF stands for eat less food.” Culture plays a huge role in our diet; American food portions are notorious for being unnecessarily large. Last week, James Elrichman at The Guardian released an article asking whether or not Western culture can do something to hinder the obesity epidemic. A few months ago, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City put a ban on super-sized soft drinks, which seems like only one of a few steps that has been taken to reduce food portions in America (Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me is the other that comes straight to mind).

The article suggests that our intake of large food portions is due to businesses attempting to gain more customer loyalty by employing marketing tactics such as “this bag contains 50% more!” and nutritional facts framed in a way that makes us believe certain foods are better for us than they really are. This idea is no surprise, and of course this sort of system didn’t exist for past hunter-gatherers, but it is another explanation for our high levels of consumption and it goes back to fast food as a money-saving technique for lower income families. Perhaps this capitalist-driven explanation is why, compared to many developed countries, America is one of the more obese ones. Another cause of overeating is education – we are taught as children, and expected as adults, to not waste the food given to us for moral and economic reasons. For some, this means forcing full restaurant servings into our digestive systems. In the past, maybe we were not as aware of the world’s resource scarcity.

Furthermore, the kind of food we consume now is full of sugar and therefore more addictive, making us eat more (also going back to the recently developed “fatty taste bud”). They've even developed a new chewing gum that can curb appetite for weight loss.

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