August 8, 2008

The Fattening of America Provides Contemporary Look at Economics of Obesity

Media Contacts

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. -- A new book written by Eric Finkelstein, Ph.D., a health economist at RTI International, and Laurie Zuckerman takes a contemporary look at the economics of obesity.

Eric Finkelstein discusses his new book "The Fattening of America"

The Fattening of America: How the Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What to Do About It, blends theory, research, and engaging personal anecdotes to address the causes and consequences of America's obesity epidemic.

The authors use humor and contemporary examples including the Biggest Loser, Jared, prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and many others to explain how economic considerations drive our behavior to make us eat more and exercise less. In doing so, the book provides an understanding of why combating obesity is such a challenge.

"There are simply many more incentives to gain weight than to lose it," Finkelstein said. "We are, in fact, victims of our success as a nation. Unfortunately, the prize is diabetes, stroke and an increased likelihood of disabilities."

The book explores the role that business and policy makers play in America's obesity epidemic, and explains that successful obesity strategies need to do exactly the opposite of where the economy is taking us. They need to make it cheaper and easier to be thin -- not fat.

Eric Finkelstein
Eric Finkelstein

"I argue that technology and an advancing economy are responsible for the rise in obesity rates, but they will also be responsible for solving it," Finkelstein said. "I don't just mean bariatric surgery and obesity pills, I'm thinking of cool new technologies that will reengineer physical activity back into our lives. The Wii active video game and Dance Dance Revolution (or DDR if you're cool) are two great examples of using technology to be more physically active. I'm sure many more are on the way."

However, because obesity is a natural by-product of an expanding economy, the authors question whether or not obesity prevention efforts, even if successful, would actually leave some individuals worse off.

The Fattening of America: How the Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What to Do About It, published by Wiley, is available on leading commercial bookseller Web sites.