A new study showing that people on two-week vacation to the U.S. gain about eight pounds -- more than when visiting any other country -- helps confirm that the U.S. has an environment which tends to cause obesity, regardless of genes, culture, or amount of personal responsibility, notes the man behind the so-far very successful campaign using legal action to attack obesity, and similar to the legal onslaught so successful in reducing smoking.
"While America's environment -- including ubiquitous ads for fattening foods and fast food restaurants, both "supersizing and supersized portions of food, numerous all-you-can-eat restaurants, and a tradition of snacking, even while driving -- doesn't make it impossible to maintain a healthy weight, it does make it much harder to avoid becoming obese," says the law professor who both inspired and appeared in the award-winning movie "Super Size" me.
It's long been known that children born in and living in the U.S. to emigrants from countries like Japan, where obesity isnít yet a major problem, are much more likely to grow up obese than those actually born and living in Japan -- so "bad genes" obviously isn't the major cause of America's obesity epidemic.
We also know that adults who come from Europe and other countries to live in the U.S. very frequently start to put on weight, but they didn't lose their will power flying over the ocean, and the U.S. certainly has no monopoly on good TV programs, so lack of will power and too much TV aren't the answers.
Indeed, we've long known that children who come to the U.S. for summer camps, as exchange students, etc. also usually put on weight during the several months they are here -- even more proof that it's not a lack of will power, too much TV or video games, etc. which is the culprit behind our epidemic of pediatric obesity which will cause an estimated one third of all children now in school to suffer from diabetes, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Fortunately, there are remedies, and they are already proving that they can be effective.
Requiring clear and conspicuous disclosure of the calories in food offerings at fast food and other restaurants is already beginning to change America's eating habits, and the effect will probably be continue to grow over time and as the law requires such disclosure throughout the U.S., suggests Banzhaf.
Legal pressure -- including law suits, the threat of more law suits, and the adverse publicity from such law suits -- has forced McDonald's and other fast food chains to make changes aimed at reducing obesity; the most recent being McDonald's decision to reduce the calories in its Happy Meals.
Using zoning and other legal tactics to either keep fast food restaurants out of or away from schools, restrictions of the sale of sugary soft drinks and other junk foods in schools, and higher taxes on foods and drinks which are especially fattening, are all techniques which are proving effective, argues Banzhaf.
"Once we realize that the external environment is a major cause of overeating -- and that the causes of obesity are not limited to lack of will power, bad parenting, or genetic dispositions -- we can begin using a wide variety of legal actions to fight back, just as we did so successfully with smoking, says Banzhaf.