The most preventable cause of death in the United States may soon be obesity, departing Surgeon General David Satcher warned before he left office. Over 60% of adults are medically considered overweight or obese, and obesity-related illnesses kill over 300,000 Americans every year.
While lower levels of exercise are certainly a cause for the obesity epidemic, this hour's guest says the food industry deserves much of the blame. The industry spends $30 Billion annually to convince Americans to eat their products. The problem, says Marion Nestle, is that the industry makes its most if its money through selling highly processed foods. Customers won't pay much for potatoes — but companies can charge several dollars for a bag of highly processed salt and vinegar potato chips.
Nestle also found that portion sizes are increasing everywhere: at upscale restaurants, at fast food joints, and even in cookbooks. "They want people to eat when they're not hungry and keep eating when they're full," Nestle says.
Industry trade groups counter that consumers have the choice to eat what they want, and that obesity is as much related to a lack of exercise as it is to the foods Americans are eating.
This hour, the obesity epidemic in America: why it matters and who is to blame.
Marion Nestle, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at New York University
author of the forthcoming book "Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health"
Lisa Katic, Director of Scientific and Nutrition Policy with the Grocery Manufacturers of America
John Banzhar, professor at George Washington University Law School
Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health
This program aired on March 4, 2002.