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[Opinion] Obesity

Posted May. 10, 2004 22:15,   


The United States is the “Kingdom of Obesity” with two-thirds of its population suffering from the disease. Men and women devouring a super-sized sandwich with an extra-large size drink and overweight persons requiring two or more seats are becoming more and more commonplace. Even the success of “Bridget Jones’s Diary” might have been driven by young women that sympathized for the joys and sorrows of a chain-smoking overweight spinster that comes out in the movie. Some even go so far as to predict that the United States, the one and only powerhouse of the 21st century, will ultimately meet its downfall not by nuclear warfare or racial conflict, but by obesity resulting from excessive nourishment.

▷The International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) states that the greatest disease in human history is not cancer, AIDS, diabetes, or cerebral palsy, but obesity. 1.7 billion people around the world, one-fourth of total population, are reported to be obese, with 312 million of those weighing 13.5kgs more than the acceptable limit. The World Health Organization has long regarded obesity as an epidemic rather than a mere mismanagement of individual weight.

▷Obese populations are on the rise even in the developing world. Southern-Pacific islands around Tonga and Nauru have turned into “Kingdoms of Obesity” themselves as their traditional eating habits are thrown to the wayside in favor of instant foods and fried eateries. Even rich oil-producers like Kuwait and the heavily-populated China are joining in the obesity epidemic. Mr. Neville Rigby, the director of policy and public affairs for the IOTF, diagnosed the severity of obesity problem as a global epidemic, not a disease with limited influence over advanced countries.

▷So what are the chief causes for this obesity epidemic? IOTF names the low price and abundance of food, combined with technological advancement that minimizes physical movement. Other reasons behind the trend are the increase of oil and fat used in cooking, which has doubled over the past 30 years, and the increased demand for instant food as more women enter the professional sector. Obesity has become a global problem that cannot merely be chalked up to personal mismanagement or over-nourishment. It won’t be long before Korea turns into an “advanced obesity-nation” and a “weight-loss powerhouse.”

Editorial writer Oh Myung-chul oscar@donga.com