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Study: Obesity worst in U.S. out of high-income countries

Bodyweight is on the rise across the globe. According to a study published recently in The Lancet, the world BMI has increased by 0.4—0.5 kg/m2 every decade from 1980 to 2008.  Out of the high-income countries, the USA has the highest BMI.

Many Americans are aware of the epidemic and have initiated a smattering of projects aimed at preventing weight gain, including the Child Nutrition Bill that was signed in December 2010 and Michelle Obama's "Let's Move\ campaign against childhood obesity. Our government released a new set of guidelines in January that advises people, among other things, to consume more vegetables and fruits, eat less in general, and avoid sugary soda. While these programs are a good start, it's not nearly enough.

It's useless to tell people who can't afford to buy fresh produce that they need to eat more fruits and vegetables. In addition, a number of Americans live in food deserts, where they have little access to healthy foods. Of course, there's also the problem that unhealthy foods are often a lot cheaper than healthy ones. Something is quite wrong when a bag of Doritos or tortilla chips cost less than a bag of fresh vegetables.

The government needs to reexamine agricultural subsidies if it's serious about fighting obesity. The current subsidies for corn and soy should be dramatically reduced, as those crops are often used in making processed foods. The money should be redirected to farmers who grow produce that are for direct human consumption, without heavy processing.  We should also encourage grocery stores that sell actual produce to open in food deserts. The battle against obesity can be won if we attack it from multiple fronts, and ending subsidies that directly feed into processed food production is a necessary step.

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