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The civilization influence on obesity and overweight people

Why people living in highly developed countries are exposed to getting fat?

The civilization influence on obesity and overweight people

The percentage of overweight people in highly developed countries can reach (as in the USA) even to 68,5%. Among them 35,7% are people with obesity. What’s the reason that theoretically higher comfort of life furthers getting fat?

There’s no doubt that Europeans are chasing Americans in terms of the number of overweight people. The highest percentage of overweight people - - 24,9%, is in Great Britain. “The first league” of overweight societies includes also Ireland (24,5%), Spain (24,1%), Portugal (21,6%) and Germany (21,3%)*. In those countries number of overweight and obese people make up more than 50% of society.

Numbers don’t lie. That is why the proof for relation between growth of industry and obesity is shown in the following data: in 1962 in the USA obese people accounted for 13% of society. In 2010 that number increased to 35,7%.

What’s interesting, formerly people with overweight were from upper class. Full shapes were a proof of prosperity. Nowadays most overweight people are among the poorest ones, but living in highly industrialised countries. Obesity at the same time becomes the symbol of a bad education and poverty.

People with low incomes most often, paradoxically, spend a lot of time at work. They don’t have energy and time for physical activity, they can’t afford fitness club’s carnets nor healthy, balanced food.

So what makes that people living in highly developed countries are exposed to getting fat?

First of all: diet

Currently the cheapest food is high-caloric, rich in saturated fat and sugar. Over 15 years (between 1985 and 2000) vegetables and fruits have become 40% more expensive in the USA. At the same time sweet sparkling sodas have become 25% cheaper. Although the food has become easily accessible, not everyone can afford food of good quality.

Besides, we eat more and more and, as a matter of fact, we are served bigger portions!

In 1955 a hamburger (it is only about meat) from well known fast food company weighed 45 g, and in 2002 even 226 g. A portion of fries at the same years weighed 68 g and 200 g, and a sparkling drink 200 g and up to even 1200 g.

Secondly: environment and civilization

Increasingly more people have sedentary jobs and spend free time in front of the TV. Just 2 hours of watching television daily raises the risk of overweight. Spending 12 hours per day sitting (8 hours at work + 2 hours driving to and from work + 2 hours in front of the TV = 12 hours!) significantly shortens life and in that case even physical activity will not change that! It’s also not insignificant what exactly are we watching on TV: 90% food commercials are commercials of cheap and fattening food and only 2% of healthy food (like e.g. vegetables and fruits).

All conveniences of a modern world: remote controls, automatic carwashes, car and bus transport and so on, effect in burning 8800 kcal less in a month than if we were living without that advanced civilization’s trophies.

Also it’s not without importance that we live in constant stress. And stress fattens because it supports release of cortisol - a hormone which increases energy accumulation as fat tissue. In consequence (of e.g. inappropriate diet and lack of activity) more people suffer from hormonal imbalance which doesn’t help keeping fit. Also treatment for many illnesses requires using medicines causing putting on weight.

We do not sleep much neither. Who sleeps briefly gains weight.

Healthy sleep should last for 8 hours per night. People who regularly sleep less are much more exposed to fattening.

Sleep helps regulate hormonal balance, which determines keeping a proper body mass.

Keeping a proper body mass in highly developed countries is becoming a real challenge. It requires knowledge (about nourishment and influence of physical activity on health and figure) and a willpower. An easy life - at the times and countries where food is easily accessible and cheap, but not always healthy, where the time spent in sitting position takes most of our day. Where life doesn’t force us to activity - becomes the enemy of a proper body mass and health. We don’t have to fight for existence but for a slim figure...

*Source: The State of Food and Agriculture 2013 (PDF, 2.44Mb), United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.