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December 25, 2007

Where did those extra pounds come from?

It's well known that more and more people are overweight, and this is a trend not just in our country but in most developed countries. Have researchers been able to discover some factors behind the added pounds? Listen

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"Well of course added pounds can come about either because of people exercising less, or people taking in more calories. One thing the researchers did - and again you emphasized this is a research project based on looking at people from around the world - is they tried to figure out between those two factors, which is more important? And they clearly found that most of the additional pounds that the average person around the world has gained have been due to taking in more calories. In fact 93 percent of weight gain has been associated with more calories, 7 percent with less activity.

"So the question is, why are people taking in more calories? Well, one factor is simply lower food prices. Worldwide, food prices are down 12 percent since 1990. A rule of thumb in economics: when something gets cheaper, you use more of it, so food is cheaper, and people are eating more. Secondly, there is an increase in the number of people working away from home. That has been found to be associated with more calorie intake, perhaps because people are eating certain kinds of food, food that they don't cook, food that's prepared by someone else. And thirdly, greater urbanization. More people are living in cities around the world, and researchers think that has given them access to a wider variety of food.

Posted by Dave at December 25, 2007 08:00 AM