Friday, February 04, 2011

Lifestyle Diseases 1: Obesity

Last year I wrote this:

Fat and Capital Accummulation

August 04, 2010

Obesity is one indicator of affluence in society. When economic productions are efficient and modern, there is ample production of many things -- food, beer, appliances, cars, cellphones, and so on. When food is plentiful, its relative price is low or cheap, so people eat and eat a lot. When car manufacturing is efficient, thousands of cars are churned out every month and cars are sold rather cheaply, well at least compared to several decades ago. And people tend to ride their cars even for short distances, they do not walk or ride bicycles anymore. And with fast production of tv sets, tv programs and movies, many people become couch potatoes, they sit down for hours watching tv or movies.

The overall result in economic affluence plus personal -- and possibly parental -- irresponsibility, is that people will have ugly bodies, like being over-fat or obese. If they eat like a pig and they do not burn enough energy, most likely they will have a body like a pig. They become obese. Of course there are also biological and medical reasons like low food metabolism, but the dominant explanation for high incidence of obesity is lifestyle changes and the success of economic modernization and capitalist accummulation.

In the US, about 26.7 percent of the entire population, around 73 million people, are considered obese. And this figure is considered as understated as the method in producing the figures is via phone call interviews, where some people would tend to understate the extent of fat accummulation of their body.

See one news report here, "Obesity rates keep rising, troubling health officials", http://http//

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the medical costs of obesity in the US is around $147 billion a year.

But is it government responsibility when people do not take care of their body? If people would love to eat and eat without control, or become too lazy to walk even for short distances, or too in love with their sofa and tv set that they sit there for many hours everyday, is it then government responsibility to treat them when they become obese?

A corollary to this is when people would drink and drink, smoke and smoke, almost without control, and develop various diseases in their internal organs later. In a social philosophy of "healthcare is a right", the State will create a complicated system of social engineering where those who work hard and take care of their body more responsibly will be forced by the State to contribute to a massive healthcare budget, in order to subsidize the health needs of those who are less responsible about their own body.

While capitalist accumulation in the social and economic sphere has been generally successful, the State's social engineering scheme where more hard-working individuals and more efficient business enterprises are coerced to surrender a big portion of their personal and corporate savings and surplus, can be wasteful.

Accumulating fat in the body is not a wise move to waste the savings of other people.


Joe Battad said...

You're looking at this only from the perspective of free choice. The minimal government that you spouse has to ensure that individual liberties are protected - physically by the use of force if necessary. See article below on effect of obesity on military recruitment. A volunteer army such as that of the US needs a healthy bunch of recruits to defend the liberties of Americans. In this case, government has to intervene and cannot just wait for "free choice" between healthy and unhealthy lifestyle to produce the army that it needs.

Nonoy Oplas said...

Thanks for the comment, Joe. I'm sure the US army will not hire obese soldiers, and this alone will encourage young Americans to take care of their body not to become obese if they want to join the army, the navy, other armed units of the US government.

If the government will intervene and use lots of tax money to treat the obese, then government should also use lots of tax money to treat the drunkards, the chain smokers, the drug addicts, and all other sick people due to lifestyle-releated diseases. Where is the limit or distinction now to personal vs. government responsibility in healthcare?

Cosmetic Surgery Philippines said...

In addition to the link of Joe Battad. People are paying huge taxes in America and it pours into morbidly obese people who spend too much on eating. So true. Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems. I repeat, "leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems." Health is one of the major concerns why government is giving free weight loss program. But to think of it, the government should have give effort on monitoring malnourishment(underweight and overweight)"first" during the early age, instead of giving corrections on the late part.

Fat and Capital Accumulation, Part 2

August 4, 2011

(Note: The 3 pictures below were taken from

As economies become richer and more efficient, food prices become cheaper relative to people's average income. Thus, people tend to eat more. In addition, cars and energy prices become relatively cheaper too, relative to people's average income. Thus, people tend to walk less and ride their cars more often. The 2nd, 3rd or 4th floor of a building also becomes less walkable as there are fast elevators anyway.

A combination of eating more and becoming less physically active is a perfect formula to have more fat accumulation in the body. And thus, overweight and obesity has become a health and social problem in many countries around the world now.

There was a report yesterday in yahoo news that discussed this phenomenon as indeed becoming a global health problem, 'Tsunami' of obesity worldwide: study.

by Winne Andrews Winne Andrews – Thu Feb 3, 9:29 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – A "tsunami of obesity" is unfurling across the world, resulting in a near-doubling of the numbers of dangerously overweight adults since 1980, doctors warned on Friday.

More than half a billion men and women -- nearly one in nine of all adults -- are clinically obese, according to research by a team from Imperial College London, Harvard and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In 2008, the latest year for which statistics were available, nearly one woman in seven and one man in 10 were obese, it found.

Being too fat causes three million premature deaths each year from heart disease, diabetes, cancers and other disorders, according to the WHO.

The researchers described the tableau as "a population emergency."

"(It) will cost tens of millions of preventable deaths unless rapid and widespread actions are taken by governments and health-care systems worldwide," said the report, published by The Lancet....

It is indeed ironic that having too much fatty food and having more convenience and modern cars and gadgetry in modern societies can create another round of health problems, when many sectors around the world are complaining of "food crisis", malnutrition and related issues.

But is reducing the high incidence of obesity mainly a government responsibility as what the health departments of many governments and the WHO would imply, or personal and parental responsibility? Over-eating and under-physical activity is a choice. No one coerced people to eat a lot, nor no one coerced people to sit for hours in front of tv or computer.

And this is where discussions and debates on "universal healthcare" can possibly focus. Should governments intervene more, like increasing the mandatory contributions for government-run health insurance system, so that obese and sickly people due to "lifestyle diseases" can be treated at lesser cost to these people?

Or should governments step back and encourage those people to purchase their own private health insurance, to augment whatever is being provided by government-run health insurance system?

My quick answer to the above questions is -- the latter.

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