The Economic Cost of Obesity

Americans consume 25% more calories today than in the 70s, so it’s easy to dismiss obesity as a disease of luxury, but this isn’t true. Academic Earth explains obesity as a class issue enabled by American food policies.

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According to Dr. James Hill, director of the Center of Human Nutrition at Colorado Health Sciences University, "Genes don't make us obese. They allow us to be obese." If our genes aren't to blame for this rise in obesity, what is? Recent research suggests that socioeconomic class can impact our bodies as much as genetics, and may be a more accurate predictor for a variety of future health issues, including obesity. Check out this video to learn more about how American policies, like food subsidies, have had a direct role in driving our current obesity crisis.


65% of the world’s population live in a country where you’re more likely to die for being obese than you are for being underweight.1

Because this includes all high-income and middle-income countries, it’s easy to dismiss obesity as a disease of luxury. But if this were true only the super wealthy would be overweight. Why is it then that people with less than a high school degree have the highest obesity rate (32.9%) or that “rates of severe obesity were approximately 1.7 times higher among poor children and adolescents?”2, 3

Obesity is a class issue. “We know that the lower your income, the more likely you are to inhabit an obesogenic environment.”4

We live in a country where junk food is subsidized. According to “In 2011, over $1.28 billion in taxpayer subsidies went to junk food ingredients, bringing the total to  $18.2 billion since 1995.” To put that figure in perspective, $18.2 billion is enough to buy over – 116 Krispy Kreme doughnuts for every single American taxpayer.

“In contrast, only $637 million has gone to subsidies for apples since 1995. That’s enough to buy just half of one apple per taxpayer.”

The average American consumes slightly under 2,700 calories per day.5 A 25% increase since the 1970s. And is it any wonder why? The cheapest food is the fattest food and it’s also the least filling. As long as this trend continues, our poor will suffer and the US will continue to have the highest obesity rate in the world.6

1 “10 Facts on Obesity.” World Health Organization, Mar. 2013. Web. 13 May 2013.

2 Krishnamsetty, Meena. “15 Shocking Obesity Facts You Didn’t Know About.” Insider Monkey. InsiderMonkey, LLC, 5 Dec. 2010. Web. 13 May 2013.

3 “Relationship Between Poverty and Overweight or Obesity.” Food Research and Action Center, n.d. Web. 13 May 2013.

4 Swinburn, B, G Egger, and F Raza. “Dissecting Obesogenic Environments: the Development and Application of a Framework for Identifying and Prioritizing Environmental Interventions for Obesity.” Preventive Medicine. 29.6 (1999): 563-70. Print. Web. 13 May 2013.

5 Kulas, Michelle. “How Many Calories Does the Average American Eat?, 14 June 2014. Web. 13 May 2013.

6 Krishnamsetty


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