Government action could slow down or even reverse the obesity epidemic across the developed world — if the appropriate agencies more strictly regulated the fast-food marketplace, according to a new study just published.
Skeptical? You should be.
The study, which was published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO), suggested that if governments took action, they could prevent people from becoming overweight and obese, which would obviously mitigate such conditions with serious long-term consequences such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancer.
“Unless governments take steps to regulate their economies, the invisible hand of the market will continue to promote obesity worldwide, with disastrous consequences for future public health and economic productivity,” said Roberto De Vogli, Associate Professor in the University of California-Davis Department of Public Health Sciences and the study leader.
According to classical economic theory, the “invisible hand of the market” is thought to be a positive influence, a collective dynamic responsive to consumer demand and capable of punishing bad actors that cause problems or inflict harm on society.
Like promoting obesity.
Nevertheless, the report suggested that anti-obesity regulations should include:
- Economic incentives for growers to sell fresh foods
- Disincentives for industries selling “ultra-processed foods” and soft drinks
- Cutting subsidies to growers and producers using large amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals and antibiotics
- Stronger regulation of fast-food advertising, especially to children
In theory — in theory — all of those measures have value. We’d all be better off if we ate more “fresh foods” and less fast food, and we’d all be safer if we never exceeded the speed limit or never “cruised” through a four-way stop.
But I think it’s been proven over the last century that despite strict, specific “regulations” prohibiting such behavior, compliance is often driven less by punitive threats and more by self-interest.
Which is shorthand for The Invisible Hand of the Marketplace.
By the way, an interesting side note to research is that one of the sources cited upfront as a “marker” of the fast-food density equals obesity theory was a study matching BMI (Body Mass Index) data with obesity rates in 26 countries.
Sounds impressive, right? Here’s the irony: Not only did De Vogli cite his own study, but the fast-food chain referenced in that study was Subway, which is touted by plenty of nutritional authorities as something of a “healthier” alternative to greasy burger restaurants and fried chicken chains.