CAMBRIDGE – As US President Donald Trump’s administration throws sharp elbows in trade negotiations and systematically rescinds regulations introduced by President Barack Obama, one casualty is likely to be efforts to fight the global obesity epidemic. Left unchecked, rapidly rising obesity rates could slow or even reverse the dramatic gains in health and life expectancy that much of the world has enjoyed over the past few decades. And by forcing its food culture on countries like Mexico and Canada, the United States is making the problem worse.
One of the paradoxes of modern global capitalism is that whereas more than 800 million people in the world do not have enough to eat, an estimated 700 million people (including 100 million children) are obese. Of course, the two are not necessarily directly related. A considerable proportion of world hunger occurs in countries suffering from domestic strife or severe government dysfunction.
The obesity epidemic, however, has a much broader footprint, affecting advanced economies and most emerging markets. Although there is some connection between obesity and poverty within countries, it is notable that obesity rates in rich countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada are among the world’s highest.
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