Academic arguments over causes of obesity

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 24th July 2012

Two prominent academics in nutrition have voiced differing views to Australian audiences on the causes of the current upsurge in obesity.

The World is Fat

Dr Barry Popkins, author of the controversial but critically acclaimed book The World is Fat has been interviewed on various ABC channels.

According to Dr. Popkins, one of the biggest contributors to the sharp rise in calorie intake has been the number of snacks and meals people eat per day, rather than serve size.

The other contributing factor was the sharp increase in the consumption of sweet soft drinks and fruit juices.

Over the past 30 years, the study found, Americans have gone from consuming 3.8 snacks and meals per day to 4.9, on average — a 29% increase.

Unintended consequences of the ‘war’ on obesity

Meanwhile, Dr Samantha Thomas, speaking at the Annual Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference in Melbourne, said the war on obesity was failing because “society put too much emphasis on personal responsibility.”

“Obesity rates are still increasing because we put all the responsibility on the individual, but are completely reluctant to tackle the corporations that are part of the cause 1 the junk food companies, the soft drink companies, even the town planners who design new suburbs with no backyards or playgrounds,”  Dr Thomas as saying.

Dr Thomas, a senior research fellow at the Monash University School of Marketing, said more should be done to prevent obesity, rather than simply telling people to lose weight.

“It is easy to say ‘I do the right thing, why don’t they?’, but for some people, for a variety of reasons, it is very hard to make the right decisions. We really need to create a healthy environment to help people do that,” she said.

FoodLegal is running a Symposium on food health claim issues. For more information and registration details, click here.