The incomparable Megan McArdle (who blogs under the name Jane Galt) posted an essay where she discusses a book she read. The book posited a theory about why it is difficult for some people to lose weight, the problem being that they were genetically predisposed to packing it on, and their bodies sent danger signals if the feed bag was removed.
That was interesting enough, but I found the comments left by her readers to be more revealing. It seems that just about everyone seemed to think that America has the fattest people on Earth.
This is simply no longer true, and anyone who is interested has known about this for years. It seems that at least 7 European countries boast populations that have higher percentages of obesity than levels found in the United States, according to a news report from 2005. It has gotten so bad in recent years that even the glacially slow European Union bureaucracy has decided to lurch into action.
One might think that the rest of the European Union, at least, has a population that is slimmer than that found in the United States. Not necessarily. As this essay by Michael Fumento states, some of the data that was gleaned back in 2005 came from surveys where people were asked to gauge their own weight. Since no one who is overweight likes to admit it, it would be prudent to take any claims of how Europeans are oh-so-svelte with a grain of salt.
Europe has a fat problem, so why the widespread criticism of the American lifestyle and high obesity levels? A report commissioned by the food corporation Kraft might shed some light on this annoying example of cognitive dissonance.
“…Europeans view obesity as a problem that affects others, but not themselves.”
There are a few things about the situation that I find very interesting.
First off, the public perception seems to be that Europe doesn’t have an obesity problem and only the indolent and crass Americans must struggle with their weight. Why this is so puzzles me in light of easily perceived evidence to the contrary, but I have noticed that Europeans tend to try and make themselves feel good by indulging in anti-America bigotry. This appears to be a triumph of European feel-good propaganda.
While high levels of obesity have been recognized as a health problem in America for at least twenty years, it seems to be a recent revelation in Europe. Perhaps coincidentally, Europe also lags behind the US in economic development. In fact, it appears that Europe is 22 years behind the US since they just reached the level of prosperity we enjoyed way back in 1985.
Hmmm. 1985. When did the obesity problem in the US first kick in to high gear, anyway?
One of the fattest countries in Europe is Germany, which enjoys an improving economy. Cyprus also has an obesity problem, and according to the CIA Factbook they enjoy a much higher level of growth than the standard EU rate.
Is there a correlation between GDP and obesity rates? Maybe. I have never studied economics so I am not qualified to say. But it certainly seems possible to this layman.