US food industry enlisted in the battle to curb obesity

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Obesity Barack obama

Top US nutrition experts together with health organizations and leading doctors have joined forces to ask President Barack Obama to combat obesity by creating a Presidential Commission on Healthy Weights, Healthy Lives.

In a joint letter to the President, co-ordinated by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the signatories highlight the success of the UK’s anti-obesity strategy and suggest that it could be repeated in the United States.

A presidential commission would help stimulate and coordinate the activities of the Departments of Health and Human Services, the United States Department of Agriculture, and other agencies involved in food and health policy, claims the letter.

“The increased rates of obesity will negate many of our nation’s investments in health-care and could actually condemn youths to shorter life spans than their parents,”​ states the letter. “Each year, obesity causes tens of thousands of premature deaths and tens of billions of dollars in avoidable medical costs. Obesity also leads to heart-wrenching psychosocial problems, such as difficulty making friends, stigmatization, and discrimination in employment.”

Fresh Produce

The United Fresh Produce Association, one of the organizations supporting the initiative, said its members could play a key role in fighting obesity. Its vice president of communications Ray Gilmer told that: “The US fresh produce industry is in an ideal position to offer support and to promote the initiative because the types of food it covers are precisely those needed to address the nation’s obesity concerns.”

CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said: “Both the President and the First Lady have been enthusiastic proponents of healthy eating, gardening, and improving school foods, and the Administration is sending so many of the right signals with regard to appointments.

“Their challenge is to harness the new national excitement about nutrition and translate that into government policies that actually promote health. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has inherited a lot of policies that promote obesity and that need reversing.”

Signatories to the letter include CSPI, the American Diabetes Association, American Public Health Association, National Consumers League, Partnership for Prevention, Shape Up America, Trust for America’s Health, United Fresh Produce Association, and a number of state-level organizations.

Industry experts

The letter has also been signed by academics and industry experts including: Kelly Brownell of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, Christopher Gardner of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, Lewis Landsberg of the Northwestern University Comprehensive Center on Obesity, and Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health.

Obesity can cause heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and certain types of cancer. In the US it leads to medical spending of about $95 billion a year.

The obesity rates exhibited by children above the age of six and adults have climbed by 50 per cent in the past 20 years.

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