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Fast Food, Fast Obesity

Dionne Searcey, Obesity Was Rising as Ghana Embraced Fast Food. Then Came KFC, The New York Times, October 2, 2017

Wealth not health

The causes of obesity are widely acknowledged as complex — involving changing lifestyles, genetics, and, in particular, consumption of processed foods high in salt, sugar and fat.

KFC’s presence in Ghana so far is relatively modest but rapidly growing, and it underscores the way fast food can shape palates, habits and waistlines.

Research shows that people who eat more fast food are more likely to gain weight and become obese, and nutrition experts here express deep concern at the prospect of an increasingly heavy and diabetic population, without the medical resources to address a looming health crisis that some say could rival AIDS.

 

Through the WI Lens

This article offers a salutary reminder that, despite all the excitement about wellness (particularly among wellness aficionados!), fast food continues to do remarkably well, particularly in emerging markets. From 2011 to 2016, fast food sales increased by 21.5% in the US and by 30% worldwide. In some countries like Ghana and Argentina, it went up by more than several hundred per cent during the same period! The reason is straightforward: in middle-income countries, fast food is symbolically associated with wealth.

It is therefore following the expansion of the middle class, and leading to a surge in obesity, exposing countries with limited fiscal capabilities to a looming health crisis. All emerging markets face the same quandary: how to grow and move beyond scarcity while supporting growing populations and urbanisation without being overtaken by processed and fast food. So far, not a single nation has been able to reverse the growth of obesity, but the backlash is coming. Public awareness about healthy eating is not working or not enough. Soon, governments will have to increase regulatory pressure in order tu put a lid on exponential health costs related to obesity.

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