Hey all, I'm learning some pretty interesting stuff at Uni at the moment and I thought I'd share with you some interesting discussion surrounding what is known as the "Metabolic Syndrome" - what most people know as the obesity 'pandemic'. USA, UK and Australia (1st, 3rd and 6th in the world in terms of obesity in 2009) are generally regarded as well known "fat" nations. The past 25 years have seen a phenomenal increase in obesity rates in the US for instance. In 1985, only a few US states had between 10-14% of their population considered 'overweight'. 1995: Almost half of the US states have 20% obesity. By 2005, this has skyrocketed to most states having between 25-30% of their population considered obese. Interestingly, majority of these 'overweight' states are part of Eastern USA. This is an extraordinary, unprecedented rate of social change. A similar change has occurred in Australia, albeit a few years behind. An interesting correlation exists between obesity rates and income equality. Nations with higher income inequality (USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Greece) are amongst the top 10 'obese' nations. Nations with very low income inequality (Norway, Japan, Denmark) are amongst the least obese nations. This has given rise to the so called 'economic risk factor' for metabolic syndrome; obesity is prevalent among the poor people in rich countries, and the rich people in developing countries. While many see the trend of Western cultures lying at the heart of obesity, what is perhaps less well known is that diabetes and coronary disease rates are rapidly rising in countries such as China, leading many to believe that the country is following the same pathway as Western cultures as its affluence increases. Most would simply attribute obesity to poor lifestyle choices, and in essence they are correct. However this is not the complete picture. A decrease in physical activity is important, however the decline in walking began around the 1900s when public transport was in common use. Food regulation has played a pivotal role in the rise of obesity. The 1970s saw an end to the post war boom in the US. High food prices and falling farming incomes threatened the presidency of Nixon at the time, and so a Free Trade Deal was brokered between the US and Malaysia, to export cheap, subsidised corn in exchange for Palm Oil. The ramifications of this deal were profound: Animal feed prices dropped dramatically as they were fed mass-produced corn, leading to grossly overwheight livestock. Corn syrup (HFCS55) was used to replace Cane Sugar as a sweeter (7x sweeter) and cheaper alternative. Products such as Coca-Cola became 20% cheaper to produce, allowing for lower prices and bigger portions. Corn Syrup also protected food from freezer burn and kept long-life products tastier, the result being that 80% of supermarket products now contain HFCS55 following the explosion of prepared foods, processed foods and frozen meals, as well as its widespread use in baking products. Corn Syrup use leads to a massive rise int he consumption of the sugar Fructose, which bypasses the usual complex breaking down processes and goes straight to the liver, a process known as Metabolic Shunting. This is thought to lead to a rapid development of insulin resistence, which has correlated with the rapid rise in diabetes. Fruit juice now becomes a culprit. Containing the juice of 6 oranges but NO fibre to break down the concentrated fructose, many children now receive a glass of fruit juice as their 'fruit nutrition'. The Palm Oil imported as part of the Trade Deal provided a cheaper alternative to beef and pig lard as a viable commercial fat. It was cheap, 'good in the mouth', and above all, stable, allowing products to last longer on the shelf without biodegrading. Unfortunately, the saturated fats in Palm Oil also avoid degradation in the body, leading to a rise in blood pressure, cholesterol and body fat. Economically, food prices fell dramatically as consumers had cheap, tasty, sweet and fatty food that required little to no preparation. High profits from food lead to monopolies controlling all food production from farm to supermarket, leading to mass industrialised food production which was highly profitable, at the expense of health. Ecological changes included the rise of new strains of food-related bacteria, as massed animals were living in feedlots knee deep in manure. High antibiotic use on these animals led to the evolution of deadly, antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria such as Salmonella and E.Coli. The simple solution would be to prepare your own food. However, the increasing rate of female employment was not matched by an increase in male unemployment, leaving less time to prepare meals at home. These changes to our food in industrialised economies in the last 40 years have been so rapid, and so profound, that they have been compared to the rise of farming and agriculture during the early start of human civilisation. This has led many to hypothesise that the metabolic syndrome is not merely a weakness of will, but a biological response to a social and economical environment.