Tipping of the scales

For the first time in human history, around the world, overweight people outnumber the undernourished. In BBC News online last week, it was reported somewhat ominously:

[University of North Carolina Professor Barry Popkin] said the “burden of obesity”, with its related illnesses, was also shifting from the rich to the poor, not only in urban but in rural areas around the world.

“The burden of obesity”? Like most white, middle-class Americans, I’ve never not had enough to eat. The most hunger I’ve experienced is between a skipped breakfast and a late lunch. No other class of folk could be so disturbed by a few extra pounds. Ask the rural poor aroud the world: “Will you accept the burden of obesity?” You may be surprised by the answer.

I don’t intend to belittle health problems associated with being overweight. Diabetes is a debilitating, chronic disease and a growing international problem (including, according to the NYT, “developing” and populous nations like India and China). I’ve seen a little of the dangerous, painful effects of diabetes from watching my grandfather, who suffered from it for 40+ years.

But that does indicate something important — unlike starvation, diabetes is a manageable disease. And if more people are dying from chronic diseases, like diabetes, than from communicable ones (as the NYT also reports), then give a shout-out to penicillin, clean water, mosquito netting, and sanitation, that might help you live long enough to die of a heart attack.

Yes, as professor Popkin suggests in the BBC online article, let’s subsidize fruits and vegetables in the U.S. But first throw a party. There is less hunger, and more people around the world have enough to eat.

(If you need another reason to celebrate, consider that a top fashion show in Madrid just enacted the first-ever ban on unhealthily thin models, in an effort to stop promoting heroin chic as the ideal to women around the world who have ever seen a magazine cover. Woo-hoo!)

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