Food for thought on obesity crisis

In 2017 19.5% of adults in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries were overweight. Worryingly, there is no evidence of worldwide retrenchment; projections from the OECD suggest that there will be a steady rise in obesity rates until 2030.

Past research has revealed that economic differences can affect obesity; in the UK the Director of Diet and Obesity at Public Health England has said that ‘obesity is closely linked to deprivation levels,’ and that children in poor communities are ‘more likely to be overweight’ (NHS 2017).

There is no doubt that obesity leads to reduced life expectancy and is associated with a wide range of illnesses, including Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and various cancers.

While much government policy focus has been on changing people’s behaviour around food, Birmingham Professor of Marketing Isabelle Szmigin’s research takes a critical view of consumer marketing techniques that encourage excess food consumption, in particular through the way the food is presented to consumers.

She says: ‘This suggests that a more reflective approach with regard to the consequences of marketing on this global crisis needs to be considered, which requires recognition of the social consequences of such activity.

‘For example my most recent published research examined the obfuscation and confusion created around appropriate food portions sizes, seeSzmigin, I. and Gee, V. (2017) ‘Mystification and Obfuscation in portion sizes in UK food products’ Journal of Business Research.’