A fantastic new book out, the Fattening of America attempts to get a real headlock on the hard questions as to why and how Americans have become so alarmingly obese. This is the first book I've read that takes a moment to ask a question most books gloss right over: Is a big Fat America a bad thing?
In the book, Eric Finkelstein, a health economist argues that our economy, with its massive increase in productivity through technology, has predisposed us to gaining weight. Our jobs have become more and more sedentary and new medical technology has overall lowered the risk of carrying a few extra or a few dozen extra pounds. The power saw and mechanical lifts have preserved the backs and knees of our construction workforce, but it also allowed them to get chubbed and diabetic. At the same time, our accelerated productivity has made things cheaper and more accessible to the bulk (no pun intended) of the population.
This book also intersects with an intriguing study out this week about how living longer is more expensive than being fat. For many years people have laid into the argument that being obese, and as such being more vulnerable to a host of metabolic diseases is a drain on the health care system. Indeed it seems a healthy individual with a longer life span will have a greater financial impact on government run and private health care than any group of obese individuals could do so.
Clearly in the end there's a lot of non-salient factors such as one's happiness, the impact of obesity on relatives and discrimination and social perception of obesity that aren't well covered here, but this book is truly the first in its field to crack open a lot of stronghold notions that have since gone unchallenged.