Weekend reading: Fat in the Fifties
Nicolas Rasmussen. Fat in the Fifties: America’s First Obesity Crisis. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019.
I wrote a blurb for this book:
Fat in the Fifties is a riveting analysis of the rise and fall of early concerns about the health consequences of obesity. Rasmussen’s history is indispensable for understanding the social, psychological, political, and environmental origins of today’s obesity “crisis.”
Even though the prevalence of obesity was quite low—by current standards—in the 1950s, Rasmussen documents widespread professional and public concern. These concerns drifted away in the 1960s and 1970s, overtaken by efforts to prevent coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death. At the time, obesity did not seem to be an important coronary risk factor. Rasmussen explains how all this happened, and does it well.
I had a personal interest in this book. My father died of a heart attack in 1950—at age 47. It was no coincidence that he was also an extremely overweight chain smoker. Rasmussen’s book provides the context for this particularly tragic aspect of my family history and I found his analysis helpful.