The rise of obesity around the world is seemingly running parallel with another global trend that might be directly linked: The food energy supply. Food available for human consumption has seen a dramatic increase in quite a few countries, many of which have also had an explosion in obesity during the same time span, including the United States. The U.S. has seen one of the highest food energy supply spikes with a 768 calorie increase from 1971 to 2010.
As if the oversaturation of available calories wasn’t enough, many of those calories come from highly-processed foods. The convenience, accessibility and high palatability of processed foods has resulted in the unencumbered rise of their overconsumption. The increased food energy supply, combined with additional environmental factors such as increased urbanization, car dependence and sedentary occupations, created a recipe for a substantial surge in obesity. Other countries may not have the same environmental hurdles, but the additional food energy supply “can readily explain the weight gain seen in most countries,” according to Stefanie Vandevijvere, senior research fellow in global health and food policy at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
What can be done about this situation is the source of much debate. The World Health Organization and some researchers believe the answer comes in additional government policies such as mandating a “restriction of the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, front-of-pack supplementary nutrition labelling, food pricing strategies, and improving the nutritional quality of foods in schools and other public sector settings.”
However, while U.S. school food programs have made some strides in improving, we recently learned that children in daycare are actually eating healthier at daycares than at homes. Childhood obesity is certainly a significant issue, but the numbers that substantiate the rise in obesity is America primarily comes from adults. Knowing that, the question becomes how can we make adults healthier eaters? Would additional policies like the ones mentioned above help?