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What Causes Obesity? And Why Has it Grown So Much? An Alternative View

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  • John F. Tomer

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to explain the main social and economic facts concerning obesity in a way that substantially improves upon existing economic theory. In contrast to existing theory, a number of recent health science writers have explained persuasively that weight gain or loss is not strictly determined by net calorie consumption. These writers have explained that what food people eat and the effect these foods have on hormones such as insulin and hormonal balance are the crucial factors. To understand the rising prevalence of obesity, it is necessary to take into account the growing infrastructure of obesity. This infrastructure includes food processing firms, notably their behavior relating to the qualities of processed food, their marketing of "junk food" and fast food, and their food cost reducing technological changes. Another factor in rising obesity levels are the human capital resources of people, most notably their social capital, personal capital, and health capital. There is evidence that people who are poor in these intangible capacities are the ones with the highest rates of obesity. The essence of the theory is that obesity is the expected result when vulnerable people with low intangible capital resources encounter the many influences of the infrastructure of obesity. These people have gotten stuck in dysfunctional eating and exercise patterns which societal influences have unfortunately encouraged.

Suggested Citation

  • John F. Tomer, 2010. "What Causes Obesity? And Why Has it Grown So Much? An Alternative View," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2010-12, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  • Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2010-12
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sara Bleich & David Cutler & Christopher Murray & Alyce Adams, 2007. "Why Is The Developed World Obese?," NBER Working Papers 12954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
    3. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    4. Robert Goldfarb & Thomas C. Leonard & Steven Suranovic, 2006. "Modeling Alternative Motives for Dieting," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(1), pages 115-131, Winter.
    5. Janet Currie & Stefano DellaVigna & Enrico Moretti & Vikram Pathania, 2010. "The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity and Weight Gain," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 32-63, August.
    6. Shin-Yi Chou & Inas Rashad & Michael Grossman, 2008. "Fast-Food Restaurant Advertising on Television and Its Influence on Childhood Obesity," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(4), pages 599-618, November.
    7. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
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