Public Health in history - Looking at nutrition part 2: obesity and body image

Wright, Jane (2011) Public Health in history - Looking at nutrition part 2: obesity and body image. British Journal of School Nursing, 6 (2). pp. 96-97. ISSN 1752-2803

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Early humans ate to satisfy the basic needs of survival (Wright, 2011). There has been transition through history from this early survival instinct to viewing food as part of cultural and social rituals, eating for pleasure and excessive eating. Excessive eating has led to obesity being perceived as a major public health crisis in the 21st century (World Health Organization, 2011). The causes of obesity and whether this is a new phenomenon, however, are the topics of critical discourse, and this article will briefly explore some of the historical evidence around excessive eating. It is argued that the current ‘crisis’ exists because of the consequence of obesity on individual health and wellbeing as well as the negative impact this has on the finite health resources around the world (WHO, 2011). This is the scientific view, but there is also debate around the sociological and anthropological effects of obesity on the species and how humans are adapting to the modern world. It has been alleged, for example, that obesity is one of a new set of threats to the population’s health that relate to personal lifestyle choices. It has also been argued that modern society has created this problem through a combination of changes to the way food is manufactured, sold and consumed, and an increasingly sedentary existence through technological advancements. Certainly if one makes comparisons across the world to populations where people are struggling to find enough food, are active, eat what they can catch or grow themselves and have no access to modern technology, you can see a difference in the body size and shape of individuals compared to those living in the ‘developed world’. Another view may of course be that this is an evolutionary, adaptive response and not related to the environment in which people live, but this anthropological argument has not yet been proven. Indeed, any genetic links to obesity have yet to be fully established (Gard and Wright, 2005).

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Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2012 12:45
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2017 19:18

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