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7 Charts Explain Why America is Becoming Obese

Americans are known around the world for our size. The country is big, our people stand tall, and in the last 50 years, we've become increasing fat. There are quite a few reasons why, and some of them multiply each other. You can probably guess some of those reasons, but you may not know them all, and you might be shocked at the extent of the changes over time. As you can see here, portion sizes have increased greatly. We're also eating out more. We consume more sugar. But there's more, including ideas for what we can do about it at Vox. -via Digg

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Interesting, rcxb! I think you're definitely right that we are often tempted to attribute a single cause to a complex problem like obesity (i.e. lots of food leads to fat people).

And it's also interesting that we naturally assume that Americans are the fattest people in the world. In fact, Mexico has surpassed the USA in this term - and processed food seems to be a leading factor (even in rural areas).
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It strikes me that they're reversing cause and effect on practically everything they've listed. Of course the AVERAGE meal size is going to go up when larger numbers of people are overweight... Obviously larger, hungry people are going to order more food. All their numbers fall into the same trap.

As an alternative explanation, lifestyle change seems a good candidate. More people are working more hours, so they're eating more convenience foods, and more are working less labor-intensive jobs? so are getting less physical activity that would otherwise increase their base metabolism and keep their weight down. And this has a nasty feed-back loop, with heavier people less likely to get physical activity and more prone to over-eat even further. Just one possible explanation that doesnt demonize the usual suspects that are all too easy to villify.

Other causes of reduced physical activity could include increasing urbanization and densification, wide adoption of indoor climate control, and many, many more.

We could alternatively go with wider exposure to chemicals like pthalates (like BPA) which have a known causal relationship to weight gain as the sole (hypothetical) cause, fitting all the same data points with no trouble.

To really get some evidence requires forcing a single varible to change in a limited test group... Pick one portion of the US, and have all the fast food restaurants in the area increase their portion sizes, then see if obesity gets worse there, or does not. Without such rigor, all the statistics Vox and others in the media can come up with are just a lot of hot air that sheds no light on the problem.
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Where abroad did you find that food portions in restaurants are larger than in the USA, Edward? My experience is the opposite: food portions in the USA is far larger.
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I call BS on this. When I travel over seas, food portions are far larger than in the US.

I remember eating out over the last 50+ years and among fast food, family dining and full service restaurant food portions have gotten much smaller.

Perhaps we are ordering more portions, but basic meals have gotten tiny compared to the sixties.
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