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The Economics of Obesity

I was extremely interested by the findings of this recent study on obesity trends in the USA.  Much of this is widely known, but there are also parts of it that are counterintuitive and contradict a narrative we often hear about food prices and food quantity.  Here are the parts that really jumped out at me:

  • “The obesity epidemic has been fueled by historically low food prices relative to income. “

This isn’t what we hear from many people who constantly barrage us with the myth that food prices are rising uncontrollably.  In fact, food is becoming exorbitantly inexpensive and plentiful in the developed world.  But here’s the kicker:

  • “Americans are spending a smaller share of their income on food than any other society in history, yet get more for it. “

So, Americans are actually spending LESS money on food, but getting more for it.  That also counters the myth we often hear about food and food prices – specifically, the myth that food prices might not be surging, but the amount of food we’re getting is reduced which is the equivalent of food inflation.

But this isn’t just a quantity problem.  Yes, we’re getting more for less, but we’re also getting a lower quality type of food for less.  In other words, it’s not at all surprising that obesity is on the rise when we’re getting MORE low quality food for LESS.  It’s the perfect recipe for an obesity crisis.

Read the full study here if you’re interested.

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