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The Global Obesity Epidemic is More Harmful Than Malnutrition

Last year, I used the word globesity, a single word coined by the World Health Organization (WHO) that very aptly describes the reach of an epidemic that is harming the health of so many people, young and old, around the world. A nutritional expert for the World Bank warned yesterday, as I'd feared, obesity may be just as devastating as malnutrition, especially to the economies of the poorest countries.

The most important number: Malnutririon erases as much as 3 percent of the gross domestic product of nations hit hardest by malnutrition, and obesity could have the very same effect. Even in prosperous nations like France, obesity numbers calculated more than a decade ago amounted to some $12 billion. And, in California alone, the direct and indirect costs associated with the overweight and obese were pegged at $22 billion in 2000.

I suspect those dire numbers, along with those in a recent study that found the number of overweight people exceeds the number who go hungry by 20 percent, were behind a charter signed by the health ministers of 53 European nations, the first attempt to push governments to take firm steps to battle the epidemic of obesity.

Unfortunately, higher taxes on soft drinks, for example, may not fly especially in America. Encouraging patients to make simple lifestyle changes and give them the help they need -- without drugs or surgery -- is a more lasting, powerful means to eradicate obesity quickly and efficiently.

Yahoo News November 15, 2006

CBS News November 16, 2006