Why Are So Many People So Fat?

America's Fat Problem is New Because the Factors Causing it Are New

Fat woman on scooter
What's going on here? Look around any public place (almost any) in America today and you can see that there is a public health crisis. It's not a hidden epidemic either. It's not a stealthy killer like the plague or an epidemic of cholera, it's right out in the open for everyone to see. People are too fat. They are so fat that they can't walk and they are so fat that they are getting very very sick. And it wasn't always so. Americans didn't begin gaining huge amounts of weight until the mid-1980s and from that time until, by most accounts, just a few years ago, the weight gain (on average) was slow and steady and only recently, perhaps because the epidemic has run out of victims or perhaps because people are finally changing their lives, has it slowed to a halt.

And while obesity rates have leveled off in America overall  there are some demographic groups that are still seeing rising rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome and other problems. And while the rate of increase of obesity has slowed or stopped, at least for a while, obesity rates themselves are far too high. Most estimates tag 66% of the American people as "overweight or obese" and roughly 30% as frankly obese. During the time that obesity rates have risen in the US, predictably, so have rates of type II diabetes, hypertension and metabolic syndrome. So have rates of disability and so, of course has the cost of providing healthcare and accommodation for the obese.

Its not necessarily a huge mystery why Americans are so fat... or is it? Often in science what seems obvious isn't true and there are a number of fairly radical scientific theories about modern obesity that range from infectious causes to obesogen endocrine disruptors to fructose. In the end, I think a common denominator is this: there is something "wrong" with much "modern" highly processed (pure nutrient) food.