There have been a multitude of theories, health research, and data that have all sought to explain what’s driving the obesity epidemic. Olga Khazan from The Atlantic writes on a recent economic trend that could be contributing to growing waistlines. She writes in her article that back in 1990, no state had an obesity prevalence of 15 percent or more. Compare that to a 2010 report that showed no state was recorded to have an obesity prevalence under 20 percent. However, researchers think they’ve found a link between a population’s increasing BMI with more restaurants and wholesalers moving in.
It’s uncertain if its connection to obesity is a result of restaurants and wholesalers moving in or if these businesses tend to settle in areas because the populations show they like to eat and they like to eat cheap. The researchers admit in their paper that these economic connections demand more study. However, the data they’ve compiled does seem to suggest that the proliferation of cheap and easily accessible food is a contributing factor to Americans’ growing waistlines. They write:
“Controlling for demographic characteristics and state and year fixed effects, changes in these economic variables collectively explain 37% of the rise in BMI, 43% of the rise in obesity, and 59% of the rise in class II/III obesity.”
They write how the data expresses a change in incentives for Americans from a money-cost perspective and a time-cost perspective. One of the researchers, Charles Courtemanche, an assistant professor of Economics at Georgia State University, said to Khazan:
“You’re talking about switching from seeing a restaurant as an occasion, to an environment where restaurants are everywhere, and you’re always driving by one, so there’s no time cost anymore. It’s very easy to get restaurant food.”
Whether big-house retailers and restaurants are a variable in the growing obesity epidemic, the cost to the American people in terms of health care is growing. Khazan puts forth a compelling suggestion: to charge a tax on junk foods in order to help fund the growing hospital bill we’re racking up as a result of illnesses related to obesity. This plan could in turn help push people toward healthier options while shopping at the local wholesale superstore.
Read more at The Atlantic.
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