With a newly released study finding that childhood obesity may be declining, there’s finally some good news in the national fight against fat. But despite those signs of progress, there’s still plenty of contention among researchers looking into obesity’s causes. Last week our senior research analyst appeared on “Ideas In Action” with moderator Jim Glassman to debate two obesity experts. Their perspectives on the causes of (and appropriate public policy responses to) the problem are, to say the least, different from ours. Dr. Scott Kahan of the John Hopkins University School of Public Health favors “fat taxes” on foods he considers unhealthy. And Campaign to End Obesity director Peggy Lee wants the federal government to classify obesity as a “disease” (as does Kahan).
We’re not fans of these ideas. As we explained, Americans shouldn’t confuse a lack of willpower with the need for government intervention. While obesity has many contributing factors, responsibility for weight gain ultimately lies with every man and woman:
Well, there's two different takes about what is causing obesity. One side believes it's a toxic food environment, to quote one of the primary researchers on this. This notion that we can't seem to survive in this environment of food. And the other side says that it's changes in the way we're responding to the environment. The, sort of, lack of personal responsibility given the changes around this.
[I]t's an interesting way of thinking about obesity as, sort of– a result of civilization. You know, we have gone from being hunters and gatherers. Or, you know– Middle Age serfs to being what we are now– sitting behind a computer desk and just typing away in a relatively short period of time. And it's gotten to the point where, I think, we are not responding to our environment, and we're not really taking personal responsibility for ourselves. Because, really and truly, that is the only reason why we're putting on weight.
View the whole debate here.