by Marion Nestle
Jan 24 2009

Update on obesity issues

While the new website was in production, I got a bit caught up on my reading.  Here’s what’s been happening on the obesity front.

Middle-age spread: eat less or else! A new study proves what every woman over the age of 50 knows all too well: you just can’t eat the way you used to without putting on the pounds.  Muscle mass declines with age, calorie needs do too.    Activity helps some, but not enough.  I think it’s totally unfair, by the way, but I’m guessing the same thing happens to men (but they have more muscle to begin with).  Alas.

Turn off the TV: Common Sense Media looked at 173 studies of the effects of watching TV on child and adolescent health.  Of 73 studies examining correlations between TV-watching and obesity, 86% found strong associations.  TV-watching was also strongly associated with such unfortunate outcomes as cigarette smoking, drug use, early sexual activity, and poor academic performance.  Conclusion: if you want to encourage kids to be healthier, turn off the TV!

British government launched an anti-obesity campaign: The UK government’s Change4Life campaign is designed to promote healthier lifestyles.  This is causing much discussion, not least because of its food-industry sponsorship (uh oh).  Food companies are said to view the campaign as good for business (uh oh, indeed). The government wants everyone to help with the campaign by putting up posters and such, and its website is cheery.  Buried in all of this is some good advice, but most of it is phrased as eat better, not eat less or avoid.  That, of course, is why the food industry is willing to fund a campaign which, if successful, could hardly be in the food industry’s best interest.

  • sid

    Wow, television is to blame for all my bad habits, vices, and poor choices of every sort.

    I knew it!

  • Delvin Voores

    Is there a similar correlation between obesity and the time spend READING?

    Funny, but why do the moralizers and ‘tsk-tsk ers’ pick on TV watching?

    What about people who spend a lot of time on chess, on lab work, on programming, and other sedentary activities? Are scientists too fat? Are computer programmers too fat? Are editors fat?

    What if you spend hours a day praticing your cello? Is that bad?

    What if you spend hours a day sitting in meetings about nutritional recommendations? Does that correlate with obesity?

  • Barbara Cole

    “Activity helps some, but not enough. ”


    So what does this do to Marion’s endlessly repeated advice. . .

    “Eat less, move more?”

    Eat less. Move all all you want, it won’t help much.

  • Andrea

    Are you snacking while you’re reading? Or you can’t even look up for a second because it’s so interesting…

    Do people eat while they’re doing their lab work, or programming, or chess? Do scientist have snacks during their case studies?

    What if you practice your cello? Do you eat at the same time?

    Probably not. And all the others up above surely don’t do.

    Why? Because, they seem to be more intelligent than simply sitting and watching soap and other silly programs on their TV if they have. And what do the average people do in front of the TV? They have super sized unhealthy snacks…

    …every day…