Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Importing the American Way of Death

Future fat? Young women leave a Bogotá McDonald's
with ice cream cones. 

This NY Times story has got to be one of the most startling (and ignored) pieces of news reported in recent years: Immigrants to the United States, despite better education, nutrition and health care, are dying younger and suffering more chronic diseases than did their parents and grandparents back home, mostly in Latin America.

That's because, along with the benefits they find in the U.S., these immigrants also adopt U.S. habits, including too much food, especially fatty foods, and a sedentary lifestyle. The predictable results include obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Celebrating American culture! Lots of Dunkin' Donuts in
Bogotá, too. 
So, will somebody please explain to me why Colombians (and others across the planet) are embracing this deadly American lifestyle?

(Hint: Maybe because corporations make huge profits from it.)

The recent book 'Salt Sugar Fat,' by Michael Moss, documented how big corporations aggressively market unhealthy foods to kids and adults with few scruples. Why should we expect companies to behave any better in Colombia?

On the path to the American Way, forget traditional
fruit markets like Paloquemao....
United States fast food chains such as McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts are invading Colombia, hand in hand with sugary drink makers Coca Cola and Pepsi, promoting chronic diseases which rob years from people's lives. El Tiempo editorialized last month that more than half of Colombians are overweight or obese. (In contrast, one of every six children under age five and one out of every six pregnant women is anemic, numbers which are particularly high in rural areas.) Convenience stores, like the Oxxos colonizing Bogotá, hawking unhealthy processed foods, are trying to drive out traditional mom-and-pop stores which feature breads, fruits and vegetables.

...and head to processed, fat-packed products at chain stores. 
Already, several Latin American countries, including Chile, Argentina and Mexico, are among the world leaders in per-capita cola consumption. Colombians consume about 50 liters per capita per year - just a little more than one third of the 130 liters an average Argentinian drinks - but you can be sure that the soft drink companies are doing their best to make Colombians drink more sugar.

The chronic diseases caused by overeating create huge costs for health care systems and are compounded by trends toward sedentarism, fueled by increasing car use.

These two people just bought churros -
deep fried fat in batter. 
El Tiempo reports that in 2009 Colombia's Congress passed a law intended to combat the country's increasing junk-foodedness, but that it was never regulated or enforced.

Peru recently passed such a law, which restricts advertising to children and the sale of unhealthy foods in kiosks. The law is, naturally, opposed by stores and advertisers, which make lots of money by pushing harmful stuff onto children. But, incredibly, a Catholic Church leader also attacked the new law as a restriction of freedom and parental authority. Strange, isn't it, for a church that's so eager to prohibit so many other things. Or is it that abortion, euthenasia and gay marriage are moral issues, but child obesity and heart attacks are not?

In practice, the avalanche of junk food advertising just leaves both kids and parents at the mercy of predatory corporations.

Vitamins! But the churros seller has the nerve to label their junk food 'nutritional.'

Another goal of the American way of death is to stamp out low-profit habits such as bicycling... 

and walking...
and replace them with the profitable car driving. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Roberto P said...

Like you say, its the same allover Latin America today. All the crap in the name of consumerism is being/will be peddled here. From people who stink like a chemical spill (how much deodarant/roll on (i.e. chemicals) do they put on each day??? to shopping for endless and pointless super cheap clothes, goods etc. All this and more with be the norm.

Such a shame to drink cola over some of the best drinks in the World: agua de coco, jugos, caldo de cana, etc etc Cola isn't made with sugar anymore, just glucose syrup, cheaper and more addictive. But you don't get rich, or addict people, selling carrots!

mauricio forero l said...

Excellent post Mike!!!!

Stuart Oswald said...

Because people don't enjoy carrots top the same scale. You are responsible for what you put in your mouth and no one else. It must be those big evil nasty corporations (again) for everything bad that happens to me.

Think you should watch this YouTube video, might enlighten the subject a little. http://youtu.be/evcNPfZlrZs Enjoy..

Miguel said...

Hi Stuart,

There is certainly shared responsibility, at least in the case of adults. But how can you say that kids, who have so little self control, should be able to stand up to peer pressure and all that advertising?

People are designed to crave fats, sweets and salts because during our evolutionary history those things were scarce. Today, instead, we're surrounded by fats, sweets and salts - but our cravings remain.

Also, Stuart, the biological forces which addict people to junk food are very similar to those causing alcohol, cocaine and heroin addiction.

Aren't you contradicting yourself by advocating prohibition of some drugs and unlimited marketing of others?


Stuart Oswald said...

I am not advocating the state controlling how much you eat. Parents have responsibility to the child not the state. Salt, fat and calories are things we need to live! There is no human requirement to subject our bodies to the chemicals you are arguing for. If anything, it weakens your own point of perspective. Why are you arguing to control something as essential as food and not something as deliberately harmful to mind and body!?

I'd urge you to view the YouTube video I linked to in my previous post.

Miguel said...

Hi Stuart,

I don't think there's any fundamental difference between drugging yourself out on alcohol, cocaine or junk food. It's just a question of degree and intensity of the effect.

If 'Parents have responsibility to the child not the state', then why not let parents, rather than the state, decide whether their kids should try pot or cocaine? For that matter, why should we let corporations, rather than parents, turn kids into junk food addicts. I don't think that many parents are happy about their kids becoming obese.

I plan to look at the video, but haven't had a chance.


Roberto P said...

Miguel, is spot on with this.

30 years ago you never had all these fat porkers. People are naive, they will take whats put in front of them.

Stuart Oswald said...

Mike, you could then say that there's no difference between cocaine, fat or oxygen. "It's just a question of degree and intensity of the effect."

Roberto, telling people or wanting to control what they eat is a bit too righteous. Even by my own standards. ;)

Roberto P said...

Don't want to tell them anything old sport!

People are naive. Look at the billions who believe in GODS!

Stuart Oswald said...

No!? Take a look at your previous comment.

And the those who believe there is no God(s).

Miguel said...

Hi Stuart,

Fat, sugar, salt and cocaine ARE similar in many respects, including that they can make you happy, addict you and kill you.


Stuart Oswald said...

Yes as with life itself.