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article imageStudy suggests governments can - and should - control obesity

By Martin Laine     Feb 3, 2014 in Health
A team of Irish and American researchers say governments can — and should — impose measures they believe can control the epidemic of obesity, reducing such long-term health effects as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
In a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, the researchers linked economic deregulation, the rise in fast-food consumption, and the increase in obesity, according to an article in Science Daily. While there has been a spate of research on these topics in recent years, this is the first to link all three, and which suggests what actions governments can take.
While past studies focused on data such as the number of fast-food outlets in an area and self-reported consumption information, the new study based its research on the number of fast-food transactions per capita between the years 1999 to 2008 in 25 affluent countries and compared that number to the average body mass index (BMI) in the same countries over the same time period.
They found that as the economies underwent a trend in deregulation, the number of fast-food transactions increased, and so did the national average BMI.
Though the study was based on information from high-income countries the same appears to be true in poorer countries.
“Virtually all nations have undergone a process of market deregulation and globalization — especially in the last three decades,” said Dr. Roberto di Vogli from the University of California, Davis, lead researcher of the study.
The study demonstrates the need for broad public policies to address obesity.
“Policies targeting food and nutrition are needed across several sectors including agriculture, industry. Health, social welfare and education,” said Dr. Francesco Branca, WHO’s director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. Branca went on to say countries “… need to take action to align the food supply with the health needs of the population.”
Some possible actions include:
• Offering economic incentives for selling healthy and fresh foods rather than highly-processed foods.
• Institute disincentives for industries selling fast-foods, processed foods, and soft drink by instituting taxes on such products, and reducing subsidies to growers using excessive amounts of fertilizers and chemicals.
• Using zoning measures to limit fast-food outlets.
• Regulate fast food and soft drink advertising aimed at children.
• More effective nutrition labeling.
More about World health organization, Obesity, Dr Roberto De Vogli
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