11 October 2017 is World Obesity Day. According to the World Obesity Foundation, 2.7 billion adults worldwide will suffer from being overweight or obese by 2025. Including obese and overweight children pushes the number even higher.
A study published in 2016 by Switzerland’s Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) found that 43% of Switzerland’s population was overweight or obese. Of these 30% were overweight and 13% obese. This rate of obesity was the same as the global average in a 2014 study.
In Switzerland, the problem is far greater among men. A study estimates that 57% of Swiss men over 20 are obese or overweight. The same percentage for Swiss women is 16%.
The gender pattern is the same for children. In Switzerland, 7% boys under 19 are obese, while only 5% of girls are.
- Half of Swiss happy to be tracked to reduce health insurance premiums (Le News)
- One in four Swiss military recruits is overweight (Le News)
The World Obesity Foundation says obesity is responsible for a significant proportion of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and many types of cancer. It forecasts the associated medical bill reaching US$1.2 trillion per year by 2025 if nothing is done.
One tool in the fight against obesity is taxes on unhealthy foods. A sugar tax in Mexico reduced the consumption of unhealthy drinks by 6%. Numerous other countries have made similar moves.
Other research suggests taxes have little impact on food choice. People continue to buy what they like to eat rather than save money. However, even if these taxes don’t reduce unhealthy food consumption, they could at least be used to cover some of the additional burgeoning health costs.
Many experts describe the problem as food addiction. For a long time, Harvard-trained doctor, medical school dean and former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, David Kessler, has been saying that foods high in fat, salt and sugar alter brain chemistry compelling us to overeat. Neurobiological studies have demonstrated similarities in the brain activity associated with drug use and some food consumption, particularly sweet foods.
Perhaps the world needs an abrupt wake up call to break its unhealthy food addiction. A BBC documentary, entitled How to Stay Young, which puts participants through a barrage of tests to calculate their real body age, provides such a shock to its participants. Richard, an obese 49-year old man, starts crying when he discovers his real body age is 92.
The stark reality compels him to change his lifestyle. By overhauling his diet and adding exercise to his routine his health and waistline are transformed in only 12 weeks.
Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office report (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now
Food Addiction: Current Understanding and Implications for Regulation and Research – Harvard University (in English)