Excess body fat is linked with the development of 13 cancers and much research effort is devoted to identifying individual level factors than might be held responsible, especially those that are modifiable. However, a recent commentary in the Lancet highlights that the search for the causes of such epidemics as obesity requires “consideration of factors that have a mass exposure, are widely distributed, and act with short timelags”.
One major aspect relates to changing food and agricultural policy. The authors highlight US data that shows that changes to US farm bills lead to a rapid increase in food production, increases in portion sizes, accelerated marketing, availability and affordability of energy dense foods and widespread introduction of cheap and potent sweeteners. Whilst it is easy to capture individual level factors like genetic predisposition, these do not explain why obesity should have increased across the population… our genes have not changed!
Throughout history, food production and distribution has worked hand in hand with nutrition policy to feed a population for health, wellbeing and strength. Indeed such policies have never been more carefully crafted than during periods of warfare. Today, the warfare is much more about dealing with chronic diseases and there is still a need to think about our larger food system beyond individual diets. The Scottish Food Coalition are working on new laws for our food system and encouraging everyone to think about what issues are important in our everyday life and what we would like to see government do on a wider scale. Here is a time for voices to be heard.
For more information please see the Food Coalition website. Comments are welcome and people are encouraged to host local discussions (kitchen table talks) and report in on a very simple web form.
There is more information on our guest blog and please see our website for the comments that the SCPN kitchen table top produced.