In an amazing coincidence, the world is getting fatter as it's getting richer.
The WHO believes there is a world-wide epidemic: "Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight -- at least 300 million of them clinically obese -- and is a major contributor to the global burden of chronic disease and disability." Indeed, some say that "epidemic" is simply not a big enough word to describe the size of the overweight problem. "The word 'epidemic' doesn't even do this justice. It is one of the most profound medical crises we've had in generations," said Eric Topol, chief of cardiology at a US clinic in Cleveland. ...Naturally, this "epidemic" prompts many fascists to cry out for government intervention, but what's the point?
We are not being killed off by an obesity epidemic, although many people are plumper. In the developed world, work has become less physical and food is more abundant. We are living longer, healthier lives. However, there are some negative cultural factors. Too often snacking has replaced the family meal and kids are getting less exercise as parents drive them everywhere, too fearful to let them walk the streets.
For thousands of years the prime struggle of humanity was to kill enough food to feed your family. Thanks to technology, we're past that, and the genes that once served us so well are starting to fall into disrepute. Our bodies don't need to use calories so efficiently, and storing fat for later no longer yields a useful survival advantage -- in fact, it may make you less able to survive. The solution isn't to force people to eat better and exercise more if they don't want to, the solution is to wait.
Within a few generations the fattest genes will be weeded out of the population as fat people die earlier and have fewer children. The problem -- with respect to the human population as a whole -- is self-correcting. Those of us born with less efficient metabolisms will have more kids and pass our genes on, and in a few hundred years humans may all require the 4000 calories a day we Americans love to shovel down our gullets.