2014-09-03

Tech breakthrough needed to fix obesity

A study was recently published about the widening "food gap": it shows wealthy Americans are eating "better", whereas poor Americans are not. Public comments about this study lament the ubiquity of cheap "unhealthy" food, and that "healthy" choices are comparatively pricey.

But there's no such thing as "healthy food". There's only a balanced - or unbalanced - diet. Most "unhealthy" food can be part of a balanced diet. Most "healthy" food will make you fat if eaten too much.

Poor people aren't fat because they lack access to "healthy" food, they're fat because it's so easy to eat too much.

If you took all the "unhealthy food" away from people, and gave them "healthy food" at the same price, they would be just as fat. For most people, food continues to taste good until beyond the point we're full - let alone the point of calorie balance. Give us "healthy" food at the same price, and we will continue to eat too much.

People are fat because being fat is the natural state of humans in the presence of an abundant food source. Our bodies are built to accumulate fat. Our brains are built to want to accumulate it. In order to counter this tendency, you have to exhibit mountains of self control. You have to accurately measure calorie intake, which requires education, diligence, math aptitude, and an hour of your time per day for the beginner calorie tracker.

This is what it takes to somewhat accurately calculate the calorie and protein content of a dish:


People who have this aptitude, willpower, education, and free time - such people aren't poor in the first place.

On a mass scale, the only currently available way to make a whole population lose weight is inhumane. It would be a tax on human consumable calories of every kind, such that people can't afford to be fat. This would reproduce the reason people were lean in older times: calories were expensive. It also meant people died.

Assuming we don't want to do that, what we need is a technological solution that does not exist at this time. We don't have a way to reduce appetite without serious side effects; gastric bypass surgery is expensive and intrusive; we don't have a pill to let people eat but stop accumulating fat; we certainly don't have a weight loss method that works for the average person as part of their daily routine.

We need a technological solution, and we have none.

But that's not fun for writing articles.

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