The global obesity epidemic is increasing every year with over 650 million people (over twice the US population) diagnosed in 2016 alone.
This has led to huge strains being placed on the medical community with lifelong illnesses and physical issues increasing.
As more people gain access to cheap, processed food, the amount they can eat increases which seriously affects their overall health.
But why is this happening and what are the causes of this issue?
When Did the Global Obesity Epidemic Start?
The World Health Organization started collecting data in the early 1950s.
From there, it became apparent that the issue really began to increase in 1975 spreading from country to country throughout the world.
The reasons this happened are as follows:
We often forget that just under a hundred years ago access to food was still seen as a luxury by the majority of society.
In fact, families who were fat were seen as healthy and of high status because it showed they could afford to feed their children. Skinny, malnourished children were from poor families with limited diets and small options for meals.
When food became cheap and widely available, it didn’t remove the social habits around eating. This meant that families would buy more food than they needed and overindulge.
The other issue is that people are biologically hardwired to crave high-calorie foods with sugars and fats in them. In the past, food was scarce and it was not always certain where the next meal would come from.
It became vital for people to be able to eat food to store energy so they could continue to hunt and work even if they hadn’t eaten in a while.
When food suddenly became easily accessible, people chose with their wallets opting to buy highly unhealthy foods that were salty, sweet, and delicious.
This led to addiction and unhealthy eating behaviors that millions of people around the world struggle with every day. Unfortunately, it is taking governments a long time to see the obesity epidemic as an addiction so the resources to help people are limited.
It was only in the past 70 years that desk jobs flourished around the world. Before that, many people would spend their days in agriculture or manufacturing doing physical labor almost every day.
Equally the lack of access to cars and limited electronics meant more people walked to each other and spent time outside playing and doing physical activities.
In recent years, it has become easier than ever to not have to go anywhere to get things done. This change in lifestyle has been a huge contribution to the problem.
- Toxic Chemicals
People are not exercising enough and consuming more calories than they need. This is not in dispute. However, there has been a significant increase in the number of obese babies younger than 6 months throughout the world.
This is strange because newborns have never required exercise or strict diets in the past.
Scientists have researched this phenomenon and have linked the exposure of certain chemicals as one of the driving factors.
In tests with mice, researchers found that adult and baby mice exposed to certain chemicals struggled to lose weight even when given healthier diets and exercise.
The research is still new but may shift global standards for food production and preservation that limits the use of previously untested chemicals.
Today, a person can order food, work, talk to friends and family and never have to leave their house.
Innovations like video conferencing and the ability to work from home have drastically shaped global culture. The incredible conveniences the internet and mobile technology have given humanity has also created vast and difficult consequences.
Every year, jobs which require physical labor are being replaced by autonomous machines which can do the same work faster, more efficiently, safer, and for less money.
As technology continues to advance, the need for human physical labor is being completely wiped out.
We take for granted how many gyms, fitness centers, and sports clubs there are around us nowadays.
In the past, no one was told they had to exercise, just that it was encouraged. We have all seen old people hunched over walking sticks complaining about the aches of various body parts.
If they were to do daily stretching like yoga and moderate exercise a week, they would strengthen their body and keep their postures straight.
Countries like Japan have a healthy older population on average because seniors are encouraged to exercise in the morning in groups.
The habit of exercise and the access to different sports is a very recent development. It is up to governments and health organizations to encourage people to make it a daily part of their lives.
- Restaurants and Fast Food
The explosion of fast food chains and affordable restaurants made eating out easier than ever.
Rather than eating breakfast at home and taking lunch to work, more people are opting to grab a coffee and snack on the way to the office and dine out during lunch.
These foods are rarely as healthy as what you can make at home and always cost a lot more money.
- Lack of Education
To some, having a healthy diet and exercising seems like an easy and obvious thing to do.
What they may not appreciate is that many people just cook what their grandparents and parents taught them and rarely read the nutrition labels on the food they buy.
For example, a supermarket may stock six or eight different varieties of peanut butter. Often, people will just get the one they think tastes the best which is almost always the option with the most sugar and salt.
If they were to read the labels, they may find an option with half the number of calories, no saturated fats, and very little sugars. But without knowing they should look for these specific things, many people won’t do so.
That’s why it is vital that adults and children are educated about healthy eating habits and how to choose the best ingredients for their meals.
- Rising Disease
The sharp growth of cities and car users has caused the number of people with asthma to rapidly increase. Asthma affects the lungs and a person’s ability to breath making exercise difficult and even painful in some cases.
Other issues like type 2 diabetes are also on the rise as the growing availability of sugary foods with high levels of fat creates more cases every year.
- The Meat Industry
When eaten in small quantities, meat is a great source of protein and can be a healthy addition to anyone’s diet.
Unfortunately, products like bacon and steaks are so prevalent and cheap, it has led to overconsumption and increasing health issues.
Lean meats like chicken or turkey are great to have, but if you keep piling bacon on your plate you are pumping high levels of fat and oils into your body and arteries.
The developed world has created an unhealthy relationship with meat and diets need to change drastically to curb the issue.
Change is Possible
Despite the issues the world in the global obesity epidemic, there’s are many ways this trend can be completely overturned in just a few years.
If people are better educated and given more resources and opportunities to eat healthily and exercise, then their weight can return to normal after only a few years of consistency.
This can happen through government subsidies and every person buying healthier foods and materials to force companies to change their products.
For more information on fitness and advice on healthy living, read our other articles.