49M Americans go hungry while 60M Americans are obese and another 60M overweight. The satiated thin man depicted by Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood in the movies, has become a real-world rarity. But what is even more paradoxical is that many of the obese are also part of the hungry. One reason is the low cost of “empty calories”: chips and fries, $1 meals at fast food outlets, $1 2-liter sodas at the mini-mart. The poor migrate to foods that are cheap and filling and that increasingly means high calories but poor nutritional value. Convenience is a huge factor. It is easier to spend $20 on pizza dinner than $10 in groceries followed by preparation time in the kitchen, especially with a car full of hungry kids.
Fat and Hungry has made companies like Archer Daniels Midland, McDonalds and Coca-Cola, “Fat and Happy”.
Most weight gain is the simple result of “calories consumed” is greater than “calories burned”. Pro cyclists weight their food and ride with expensive power meters, but most of us have little idea what the value of either side of that equation is on any given day. People will burn 200 calories riding a bike, then reward themselves with a 1000 calorie meal believing they are ahead.
American’s spend $10B on prescription antacid drugs and as much or more on over the counter alternatives. I would bet this drug market has grown faster than the population. I wonder if there is a correlation to weight gain in America?
Fifty years ago when obesity was uncommon, genetic differences were discovered to play a key role in how people absorb and metabolize sugars and fatty acids. Two people could eat the same diet, yet one only would gain more weight. Are genetics behind today’s staggering obesity numbers? Gene mutations don’t spread through a human population in one or two generations. In two human generations, bacteria can evolve millions of generations. There is recent scientific evidence that human gut bacteria (friendly flora) may have adapted the way sugars and fatty acids are moved from the digestive tract into the human bloodstream. Perhaps this will lead to new fat-forgiving products.