Friday, November 28, 2014

Fat chance: How much obesity is costing us

Here is an article to digest the day after Thanksgiving. Hopefully you all had a great day and enjoyed some good food. The problem is that too many enjoy too much not-so-good food too often and it costs all of us. Be part of the solution, not part of the pollution.

Fat chance: How much obesity is costing us

Our expanding waistlines are costing the global economy almost as much to deal with as smoking and military conflict, according to a new report by the McKinsey Global Institute.

The annual global bill for obesity for lost productivity and treating treating conditions like diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers is $2 trillion. That's nearly as much as the $2.1 trillion smoking or war and conflict costs the global economy, a group of analysts at the research institute concluded.

Around 3.4 million adults die every year because they are overweight or obese, according to World Health Organization (WHO)statistics.

Root causes 

The long-term causes are well-known. Compared to a century ago, food is cheaper and more widely available in most countries – and lots of high-calorie foods are cheaper still. Technology means we are less likely to be walking a long way to work or school, and more likely to be sitting at a desk than tilling the soil.

The prevalence of childhood obesity is particularly concerning for future growth of the epidemic. In some low and middle income countries, "it is not uncommon to find under-nutrition and obesity existing side-by-side within the same country, the same community and the same household," as high-fat, low-nutrient foods form an increasing part of the diet, according to WHO.

Better healthcare also means that "carrying a few extra pounds is not as bad for one's health as it used to be," according to Eric Finkelstein and Laurie Zuckerman, in their book The Fattening of America. Despite several attempts, the pharmaceutical industry has not come up with a blockbuster pill-based treatment to help obese people lose weight, and the most effective, although drastic, treatment remains surgery.

The economic costs of obesity are particularly acute in the U.K., where "people are now living considerably longer than they did when the NHS was first established in 1948, but they are not living longer healthily," a group of MPs looking into primary care and public health warned last year.

Weighing up the options

Portion control is one of the most cost-effective ways of limiting the economic impact of obesity, according to the McKinsey study.

However, intervening in people's lives is a difficult problem for governments: Clamping down on portion size or otherwise limiting access to high-calorie food and drinks can be seen as violating the right of individuals. An example of such a measure back-firing can be seen in the campaign to ban super-sized sugary drinks in New York, which was defeated in the state's Court of Appeals in June.

The best way to contain the cost of the obesity epidemic is likely to be "a combination of top-down corporate and government interventions, together with bottom-up community-led ones", the McKinsey analysts argued.

So portion control, and changing the composition and availability of high-calorie foods could go hand-in-hand with educating parents and schoolchildren, under the plans outlined.

- By CNBC's Catherine Boyle

and here is another article.......

London • A new report by the McKinsey Global Institute released Thursday that the global cost of obesity has risen to $2 trillion annually — nearly as much as smoking or the combined impact of armed violence, war and terrorism.

The report focused on the economics of obesity, putting it among the top three social programs generated by human beings. It puts its impact at 2.8 percent of global gross domestic product.

"Obesity isn’t just a health issue," one of the report’s authors, Richard Dobbs, said in a podcast. "But it’s a major economic and business challenge."

The company says 2.1 billion people — about 30 percent of the global population— are overweight or obese and that about 15 percent of health care costs in developed economies are driven by it.
 In emerging markets, as countries get richer, the rate of obesity rises to the same level as that found in more developed countries. The report offers the stark prediction that nearly half of the world’s adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030 should present trends continue.

The report’s authors argue that efforts to deal with obesity have been piecemeal until now, and that a systemic response is needed.

McKinsey says there’s no single or simple solution to the problem, but global disagreement on how to move forward is hurting progress. The analysis is meant to offer a starting point on the elements of a possible strategy.

"We see our work on a potential program to address obesity as the equivalent of the maps used by 16th-century navigators," McKinsey said in its report. "Some islands were missing and some continents misshapen in these maps, but they were still helpful to the sailors of that era."
Not this ..........


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