Rising Obesity Rates Coincide With More Exercise, Cheaper Food

Obesity rise also coincided with increased leisure time, availability of fruit/veggies

TUESDAY, May 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Many commonly held assumptions about drivers of the obesity epidemic are wrong, according to a review published online May 22 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Roland Sturm, Ph.D., from the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., and Ruopeng An, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, conducted a review of the literature to identify economic factors associated with the obesity epidemic.

The researchers found that rising obesity rates coincided with increases in leisure time (not increases in work hours), increases in fruit and vegetable availability (not declines in healthier foods), and increases in exercise uptake. Americans now have the cheapest food available in history as measured by a share of disposable income, which has fueled the obesity epidemic. Across sociodemographic groups or geographic areas, weight gain was surprisingly similar, suggesting that to understand the role of the environment in the obesity epidemic one needs to understand changes over time affecting all groups, not just differences between subgroups at a given time. The evidence for effective economic policies to prevent obesity remains limited.

"Political support has been lacking for even moderate price interventions in the United States and this may continue until the role of environmental factors is accepted more widely," the authors write.

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