As a result of such political pressures, "Since 1977, an American's average daily intake of calories has jumped by more than 10%. Those 200 or so extra calories have to go somewhere...there is a surfeit of cheap calories that clever marketers sooner or later will figure out a way to induce us to consume" (Pollan 2003, p.1).
Because the cause is multifactoral, addressing the issue has proved difficult, and has largely been done on the local level. Some schools have banned sugary snacks and soft drinks; others have tried to increase physical education and nutritional awareness. Some towns have tried to limit the number of fast food establishments within certain areas that have high obesity rates and little access to fresh produce. "For almost two decades, young people in the United States got fatter and fatter -- ate more, sat more -- and nobody seemed to notice. Not parents or schools, not medical groups or the government... since the alarm was finally sounded in the late 1990s, the problem has been the country's reaction: a fragmented, inchoate response that critics say has suffered particularly from inadequate direction and dollars at the federal level" (Levine & Aratani 2008).
This stands in contrast with Europe and other nations such as Japan in their response to the epidemic: "France mandated health warnings on televised food ads. Spanish officials reached agreement with industry leaders on tighter product labeling and marketing as well as reducing fat, salt and sugar in processed foods. Britain has gone the farthest, restricting food ads on TV programs catering predominantly to children and pulling sweets and sweetened drinks from schools. Eighty-five percent of all grades have at least two hours of physical education a week" (Levine & Aratani 2008). Although the causes of obesity may be too many to perfectly quantify, attacking all potential causes within human control as soon as possible has been the focuses of these European governments.
Even Japan, with its more modest increases in obesity rates has launched a "Health Japan 21 program, a collection of dozens of numerical health targets it hopes to achieve by the end of the decade" (McCurry 2006). However, in contrast to these more homogenous systems of governance, a unified policy in the U.S. has been more difficult to achieve between the states and agriculture and food" and protect farmers yet "their secondary task is to establish nutrition policy" even foods that may help farmers but encourage obesity like corn syrup-based sweeteners (Levine & Aratani 2008). A "congressional request did prompt the Federal Trade Commission to order food and beverage companies to provide details on their activities and expenditures on food marketing to youth," but said that encouraging companies to 'self-regulate' was the only goal (Levine & Aratani 2008).
In short, even while the causes of obesity may be unclear as to what or who is most to blame for the epidemic, little is being done to create the most modest changes to reform American dietary practices and activities, compared with other nations facing a similar crisis.
Etiology of obesity. "Lifestyle management of adult obesity." University of Missouri-Columbia.
2007. February 19, 2009. http://www.vhct.org/case2500/etiology.htm
Obesity and overweight." World Health Organization (WHO). 2009. February 19, 2009. http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/facts/obesity/en/
Levine, Susan & Lori Aratani. "Inertia at the top." The Washington Post. May 19, 2008: A01. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/09/AR2008050900527.html
McCurry, Justin. "Japanese grab girdles as obesity crisis looms." The Guardian. March 2, 2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/mar/02/japan.justinmccurry
Pollan, Michael. "The way we live now: 10-12-03; the (Agri) cultural contradictions of obesity." The New York Times. October 12, 2003. February 19, 2009. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0DE2D61E3CF931A25753C1A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2
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