Will we ever see a reversal in the obesity trend?

Every now and then I see an article online about having to increase the size of toilets, x-ray machines, etc to accomodate the increasing obese population. I feel that our decade, and possibly our century, is in an upward trend toward having to make chairs, living spaces, and other personal effects (like clothing) larger because more and more people are getting bigger. Not only that, but innovations in medical technology mean a person of such size can stay alive much longer. Combined with some fears (well, quite possibly baseless rants, but who knows) about parents who are bad influences on their children and end up raising obese children, it really makes me wonder how long this trend will (or can) continue, before we start seeing a reversal and more and more people become smaller.

Centuries from now, will archaeologists discover the remnants of an old apartment building and find toilets that are bathtub-sized compared to their bodies? Or will those ancient personal effects be laughably small in comparison because the obesity trend is still climbing centuries later?

Its probably only a matter of time before it can be prevented medically.

So my take is this will probably be a temporary thing from a historical perspective rather than here to stay.


If not we might very well see a reversal in the life expectency trent.

It can only get so large.

I remember my mother being discouraged to see an overweight Scotty in the Star Trek movies - she hoped there would be a cure for it by then.

Do not despair. 'Tis possible that there will be some sort of apocalypse/economic collapse after which people won’t be able to find enough food to be fat.

I could also imagine a religious or political movement against obesity suddenly catching fire… and if that seems unlikely, well, so did prohibition of alcohol.

I have no doubt obesity will be a thing of the past within two generations. Countless drug companies have drugs in R&D trying to get the “miracle” cure out to the public and the billions in their pockets. It is just a matter of time really and not as long as you think. As far as the population acquiring better habits to stop this trend? Doubtful. We as a society are always looking for the quick fix.

Barring some kind of miracle cure for obesity, I don’t see this trend coming to an end within our lifetimes. Part of the problem is the food itself; its a heck of a lot easier to come by food these days. The other problem is a lack of activity. Both of these trends are only hindered by improvements in technology. As technology improves, food distribution can only improve, food can be cooked faster, it will be tastier. Further, as technology improves, there will be less and less need for physical labor and more accomodations being made for the obese (reducing incentive to lose fat).

Further, I don’t see a miracle cure any time soon, because there’s a lot more issues with obesity than simply having too much fat. You can’t just invent pills that increase metabolism, as they will just be hungry soon. You can’t just keep sucking out the fat. Gastric bypass works sometimes, but there are cases where they lose the weight, then gain it right back. Even worse, none of these address other related issues; they’ll still suffer from malnutrition and poor physical condition.

With exception to the people who have legitimate health issues, the cure isn’t medical, its societal. We, as a people, need to do a better job of encouraging people to be physically active and eat healthier… unfortunately, I don’t see that happening.

I seem to remember seeing somewhere that the obesity numbers were starting to level off for the US as the barrage of information finally started to penetrate people’s skulls? If it has not already, then it will very soon. However, I suspect that absolute numbers aren’t as important as the real or percieved obligation to provide facilities that can accommodate everyone, even if very large people only represent 1% or less of the population.

It should also be considered that people tend to keep getting larger even if they aren’t overweight. I seem to recall that the Netherlands now has building codes etc. designed to accommodate people well over seven feet tall.

Heh. Our priest did tell us it was our Christian duty to point out to our overweight friends that they are hurting themselves, just as we should point out the ill effects of cigarettes. Of course I was about the only fat person in the congregation, and he’s quite slim, so it really stuck with me. :rolleyes:

Blaster Master has the right take on it. Overeating (like drug and alcohol abuse) usually involves a complex cluster of behaviors, and addressing one without the others will usually fail. The only foolproof method would be to make some brain chemical altering drug that would narrowly target the brain’s appetite mechanisms, and not have negative side effects. I suspect this will be a difficult task given how involved the appetite mechanism is and how closely it’s linked to mood and emotion.

I agree that we will probably never see an end to obesity, but what will see is that the medical complications that come with obesity will probably be alleviated to a greater and greater degree as time progresses.

I’m sure we will. The NIH said last year that life expectancy could decline by as much as five years if these trends continue. Assuming half the country doesn’t lose weight immediately, I think it’s safe to say life expectancy will go down. Kids aren’t getting more active, as far as I can tell, and that’s one of the big problems, because snacks certainly aren’t getting harder to find.

I wonder if New York will follow through on its proposed ban of trans fats, and if other cities might follow suit.

Yep. I see a lot of buzz around the use of cannabinoid receptor antagonists, for instance, but given the apparent involvement of endocannabinoids in a host of neurological functions, including regulating anxiety, mood, pain, sleep, appetite, emesis, etc., I have to wonder what chronic use of such compounds would do to one’s overall sense of well-being. I’ve yet to see an anorectic of any kind that didn’t carry the potential for all kinds of troubling side-effects, but I suppose it’s not impossible a truly benign sort of treatment might come along. I’m not holding my breath, but it’s certainly a field of intense interest.

And plus, I think our own natural instincts to a degree work against us. It’s pretty natural among animals that when there’s food, they eat. In nature a wild dog would almost never be obese. But if a dog in a home comes upon a spilled over bag of dog food, it will very likely eat until it is extremely sick, because instinctually it feels it needs to eat as much as possible because it goes back to the time when there was considerable work put in to get that next meal, and if things went badly you may have to go awhile before that next meal comes around.

A lot of food out there today, you can eat a lot of it before you get full, but it actually has a huge caloric content. For example, a cookie isn’t very big, you can eat a lot of cookies before you get “full.” However, one cookie has quite a lot of calories in it. Wheras in nature, there is often a direct correlation between how full you’re getting and how many calories you’ve consume. For example if you eat one apple and you’re hungry, it probably won’t fill you up, and indeed, one apple doesn’t have many calories in it.

If you eat a hunk of beef the same size as that apple, it will fill you up much more, and likewise it will have given you a lot more calories than the apple. I think the introduction of high-calorie foods like potato chips, fast foods, and even high calorie drinks like soft drinks has really thrown every thing out of whack. Humans as animals aren’t really supposed to be encountering stuff like this.

I, for one, welcome my new obese…oh hell, nevermind.

I think we as a society have been pushing towards obesity for a long time and we are just now starting to see the ill effects. Deep fried foods, trans fats, refined sugars, cars and motorcycles are all things that have improved our lives in one way or another but have pushed us towards obesity. I get to choose to have chicken fried steak followed by ice cream which is FAR more delicious than salad but I have to pay the price for that by getting fat. I have a car to drive everywhere which gives me more space to carry things with me when I go shopping, which is nice, but because of this cities and suburbs have started building homes and businesses farther and farther apart preventing you from walking anywhere for something you need even if you wanted to, making it that much easier to get fat. Trans fats and preservatives help prolong the shelf life in products which prevents spoilage, but it increases the amount of unhealthy calories we take into our bodies. I think to turn it all around we will have to be forced economically to go the other way…gasoline hits 6 or 7 dollars a gallon and forces people to start biking or walking everywhere they go and other such things.

Glenn Gaesser wrote an interesting book about the relationship of obesity to longevity, called Big Fat Lies. According to him, eating from all the food groups and activity levels have stronger relationships to longevity than body mass index. According to Donna Ciliska, even strenuous controls only tend to allow a person with a high set point weight to change their genetically preprogrammed number by a small margin over time – under 10%.

As to the OP, trends in body weight fluctuate with more than one influence – food availability, the demographic transition, and social pressures among them in this century or so. Some sort of reversal is bound to happen; there’s always the ebb and the flow.