Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 9 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/4/12

Behind Super-Sized Sodas, a Deeper Danger

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   4 comments
Message Sam Pizzigati
Become a Fan
  (2 fans)

If we really want to narrow our waistbands, we have to narrow the income gaps that divide us.

New York City 's billionaire mayor wants to ban super-sized sodas and other sugar-packed drinks.

Some 58 percent of New Yorkers, explains Mayor Michael Bloomberg, currently rate as either overweight or obese. Their excess pounds are driving up the city's health care costs, he argues, and even putting their lives in jeopardy.

  "Obesity will kill more people than smoking in the next couple of years," Bloomberg says.

Maybe so, his critics counter, but banning soda pop won't end obesity. Bloomberg's ban, they contend, would be unenforceable. And why pick on soft drinks?

This debate punches too many political and media hot buttons -- think "big government" and "nanny state" -- to fade any time soon. But the focus on calorie-laden foods and drinks misses the real story. If we want to get serious about fighting obesity, we need to look at the social dynamics that drive people to eat and drink more and more of the things they should avoid.

And the most powerful driver of this unhealthy behavior? Economic inequality.

"Wider income gaps," as British social scientist Kate Pickett and her colleagues note in a comprehensive study of obesity across the world's wealthiest nations, translate into "wider waistbands."

In the United States, we've had good national data on weight since the early 1960s. The numbers through the early 1970s showed no sign of an obesity epidemic. In 1980, only 15 percent of American adults counted as obese. But that rate soared to 23 percent in 1995 and then 35 percent in 2006.

Experts offer many explanations for our losing battle against the bulge. Fast food is fattening. Restaurants are super-sizing portions. Corporate food giants have engineered more fatty, sugary, and salty products.

All these factors no doubt contribute to the growing incidence of obesity. But they don't explain why some states in the United States have more obesity than others -- or why obesity isn't plaguing every rich nation.

Inequality does explain these differences. The states within our country -- and the nations within the developed world -- with lower obesity rates just happen to be the states and nations with the greatest economic equality.

That spike in U.S. obesity that began in the 1980s? That spike coincided with our national surge in economic inequality.

But how exactly does inequality make us fat? Epidemiologists -- the scientists who study the health of populations -- point to two closely intertwined phenomena: social status and stress.

In developed nations, the epidemiological studies show, obesity levels rise as income and social status fall. On each rung of the economic ladder, people tend to be more overweight than the people on the rungs above them.


(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Well Said 1   Supported 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Sam Pizzigati Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Sam Pizzigati is an  Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies

Editor,  Too Much ,  an online weekly on excess and inequality

Author, The Rich Don't Always (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Presenting America's Ten Greediest of 2013

A Daring Bid to Stomp Out CEO Pay Excess

The Evolution of "Davos Man" into . . . Trump Fan!

Are Heartless People Simply Born That Way?

Counting Dollars the Rich Want Uncounted

In an unequal America, empathy, not just housing, has become too pricey

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend