Tough Financial Times May Lead to Increased Obesity

October 30, 2008
Erin Romanski

Strategic Alliance Partnership | <b>FAST: Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics</b>

Public health scientists say they're worried that a downtrodden economy will make Americans more overweight than ever before.

Public health scientists say they’re worried that a downtrodden economy will make Americans more overweight than ever before.

Attributed in large part to rising unemployment and higher food prices, the financial crisis could exacerbate the nation’s obesity problem, as people rely on less expensive menu options from their local drive-through. As households come to grips with falling incomes and with food prices expected to jump 6 percent this year, according to the US Department of Agriculture, families are cutting back on groceries. About six in 10 Americans say they’ve cut back on the quality or quantity of the food they buy, according to an annual hunger survey released this week by Hormel Foods Corp.

Research has demonstrated a consistent link between poverty and obesity. However, although more than a third of American adults and children are obese, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate has stabilized somewhat, particularly in children and young adults aged two to 19 years.

Will the current economic crisis eliminate erase any progress and leading to more obesity-related problems like heart disease and diabetes? Stressed consumers are likely to trade pricey whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables for low-cost but high-fat alternatives, according to studies conducted by the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is mainly due to fruits and vegetables costing more for less energy than processed foods, and because some buyers aren't used to adding fresh produce to their diets.

Some may say all this bad decision making is the result of tactical marketing ploys. McDonald's, for example, recently credited their Dollar Menu with boosting third-quarter sales in the US by 4.7 percent, and internationally a whopping 11%.

Hard times do not have to destroy a decent diet, however. MSNBC.com conducted a study of their readers, which indicated that they have reduced their food costs and improved their health by cooking more at home, cutting back on expensive kinds of meat and produce, relying on leftovers and reducing waste, proving it is possible to eat well on a budget. It’s simply a matter of motivation.