06 March, 2006

Maaaa', The West Is Making Us Fat!

I'm not sure that that's the best explanation for the increasing rates of obesity amongst children around the world, but I guess it's a start. If you read articles from newspaper such as the Chicago Tribune or the Miami Herald, you'll conclude that Western candy makers are behind the upsurge in fatties. Reuters, on the other hand, offers a more complete picture of the situation, highlighting the real risk of a spike in infantile diabetes, a scary portent indeed, and pointing to more sedentary lifestyles as a likely accomplice. At the same time, there's not one mention of the sinister candy maker, one hand in the jar, the other holding fat children's mouths around the world wide open. And I'm not saying they're not to blame. In North America (and I exclude Mexico) the increase in the number of belt-busting tubbies is probably due to eating too much high-fat foods and sitting in front of the tube or computer monitor. However, for countries like Mexico, Chile, China and elsewhere, perhaps the answer is a bit different. I hate to conjure strawmen in explaining something this global, but perhaps globalization and the free market has something to do with this. Perhaps the problem is that food is cheaper around the world, and not just fattier. Which kind of reminds me of my childhood, concerned grandmother at my back, rushing to stuff the next bite of whatever food down my throat. Yes, one summer my parents sent me to Caracas -we were living in SE Venezuela at the time- to spend some time with my dear mamama. I left a scrawny 5-year old and returned barely a few months older, but certainly a bunch of kilos heavier. And what was the reason for her fattening concerns? Well, while the cause is a complicated one, my grandmother was always trying to cram food into our bellies, and by us I mean the entire family, including my two aunts, father, their children, and me. We always thought it had to do with her bleaker childhood, which she spent on the streets selling cheap trinkets and pulling god-knows-how-many hours of panhandling. This after her careless lush of a father squandered away the family money in gambling and poor business management. Anyway, in the end they managed to get their lives back up and running, and the result was a plump, somewhat sedentary family of three children (small number, you might say, but with good reason) who, in turn, raised 4 more plump, sedentary children.

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