We – as a species – have access to more information than civilizations did in the past, yet struggle as a population to apply those realized truths to our lives for various reasons, and in effect, are experiencing a drastic increase in degenerative health issues world wide.
And what is one of the leading contributors to modern-day disease of affluence? According to WebMD, tendency towards being overweight increases one’s risk to develop and suffer from Type II Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and neurological issues as one ages.
But this is nothing new to the majority of the population – which is why the drive to lose weight is a $58.9 billion dollar industry. But despite 6 out of 10 Americans seeking to shed pounds, our species on a global level is getting fatter. What could possibly be the underlying reason(s)?
According to a recent study, retailers like Walmart are to blame. While not one company can really be antagonized for causing peoples’ waists to increase, a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that Big Box stores like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, as well as the prevalence of restaurants, may be a huge contributing factor to American’s weight gain.
The economists who conducted the study suggest that with processed food being cheaper and more readily available (at least when bought from mega stores like Walmart), people simply eat more of it. Co-author Charles Courtemanche, a health economist at Georgia State University, believes that, “at least a sizable portion of the rise in obesity can be characterized as responses to economic incentives.” But that initial assumption is likely to be deceiving.
The study goes on to point out that restaurants and Big Box stores are extremely effective at delivering convenience and junk foods which are loaded with fat. (These same foods also happen to be loaded with other toxic products like MSG, GMOs, and high-fructose corn syrup, all which have been linked with higher obesity rates.)
When compared with data compiled from more than two dozen different economic and demographic factors, the researchers found that the density of restaurants and large-scale food retailers in particular areas was a major factor between 1990 and 2010 in the nationwide rise of obesity and BMI (body mass index), which measures weight against an individual’s height. The researchers found that there were far more obese people (those who were more than 50% overweight) in these Big Box and restaurant-dense areas.
In the paper, the researchers concluded that Walmart is at least partly the cause of why we – as a population – seem to bet getting fat:
“A growing literature examines the effects of economic variables on obesity, typically focusing on only one or a few factors at a time. We build a more comprehensive economic model of body weight, combining the 1990-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System with 27 state-level variables related to general economic conditions, labor supply, and the monetary or time costs of calorie intake, physical activity, and cigarette smoking.”
While stocking up on low-quality convenience products have been the norm for supermarkets for years, some larger chain stores are changing the types of foods that will be available to Americans – largely in response to consumer demand.
One such store is Target, which expects to roll out with thousands of new organic, healthy, and sustainable products in the next year. This will prove that convenience and cheaper prices don’t necessarily have to mean a tendency toward an obese nation.
But we don’t need to rely on large superstores to provide healthier packaged foods before we, as individuals, make the switch to clean, organic, unprocessed, and primarily plant-based food options. You can take responsibility for better health now by eating food that only has 1-5 ingredients and is minimally processed, and by moving your body a bit extra every day. By adding small, positive habits to your schedule, you are sure to benefit in no time.