Wealthy ones get fat? Poor ones get fat?


  1. Wealthiness is said to be the cause of obesity....
  2. The example of obesity in poverty
  3. Though we became wealthy, how is the quality of our food?
  4. Underweight and obesity can coexist

I want to tell you something interesting that is related to the content of my blog. At the end of this article, I will explain how it is related to my experience.

1. Some believe that wealthiness is said to be the cause of obesity...

 "Ever since researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) broke the news in the mid-1990s that the epidemic was upon us, authorities have blamed it on overeating and sedentary behavior and blamed those two factors on the relative wealth of modern societies.

<In 2003>
  "Improved prosperity" caused the epidemic, aided and abetted by the food and entertainment industries, as the New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle explained in the journal Science.

The Yale University psychologist Kelly Brownell coined the term "toxic environment" to describe the same notion. Brownell says, live in a toxic environment "that encourages overeating and physical inactivity." Obesity is the natural consequence. (Cheeseburgers, French fries, super-sizes, soft drinks, computers, video games etc ) (P.17)


The World Health Organization (WHO) uses the identical logic to explain the obesity epidemic worldwide, blaming it on rising incomes, urbanization, "shifts toward less physically demanding work...moves toward less physical activity...and more passive leisure pursuits." (P.18)

(Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes)

In Japan, this idea is widely accepted and TV programs, magazines on dieting or the majority of specialist explain that high-calorie food and less exercise are the cause of obesity.

2.The example of obesity in povert

However, what we have to consider here is that obesity is spreading in poor layer, too.


"This was first reported in a survey of New Yorkers - midtown Manhattanites - in the early 1960s: obese women were six times more likely to be poor than rich; obese men, twice as likely.

Can it be possible that the obesity epidemic is caused by prosperity, so the richer we get, the fatter we get, and that obesity associates with poverty, so the poorer we are, the more likely we are to be fat? (P.18)

▽In the early 1970s, nutritionists and research-minded physicians would discuss the observations of high levels of obesity in these poor populations, and they would occasionally do so with an open mind as to the cause.
This was a time when obesity was still considered a problem of "malnutrition" rather than "overnutrition" as it is today. (P.29)

Between 1901 and 1905, two anthropologists independently studied the Pima (Native American tribe in Arizona), and both commented on how fat they were, particularly the women.

What makes this observation so remarkable is that the Pima, at the time, had just gone from being among the most affluent Native American tribes to among the poorest.

The Pima used to be hardworking farmers and hunters, so it is said, and now they're sedentary wage earners, like the rest of us, driving to the same fast-food restaurants, eating the same snacks, watching the same TV shows, and getting fat and diabetic just like the rest of us, only more so. The tribe was relying on government rations for day-to-day sustenance.

Why would the Pima get fat on the abundant rations and not on the abundant food they'd had prior to the famines? Perhaps the answer lies in the type of food being consumed, a question of a quality rather than quantity. (PP.19-22)

Two researchers from the University of Chicago studied another Native American tribe, the Sioux living on the South Dakota. Fifteen families, with thirty-two children among them, lived "chiefly on bread and coffee." This was poverty almost beyond our imagination today.

Yet their obesity rates were not much different from what we have today in the midst of our epidemic. But the researchers noted another pertinent fact about these Sioux: one-fifth of the adult women, a quarter of the men, and a quarter of the children were "extremely thin".

This combination of obesity and malnutrition or undernutrition (not enough calories) existing in the same populations is something that authorities today talk about as though it were a new phenomenon, but it's  not. Here we have malnutrition or undernutrition coexisting with obesity in the same population eighty years ago. "(PP.23-24)

(Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes )


Groups with high obesity rate despite their poverty and undernutrition were found all over the world. Below are just a few examples.

"1961-63: Trinidad, West Indies
A team of nutritionists from the US reports that malnutrition is a serious medical problem on the island, but so is obesity.

1971: Rarotonga, the South Pacific
40% of the adult women are obese; 25% are "grossly obese."

This is from a 2005 New England Journal of Medicine article, "A Nutrition Paradox - Underweight and Obesity in Developing Countries," written by Benjamin Caballero (Johns Hopkins University).

Caballero then describes the difficulty that he believed this phenomenon presents:
"The coexistence of underweight and overweight poses a challenge to public health programs, since the aims of programs to reduce undernutrition are obviously in conflict with those for obesity prevention.”

Put simply, if we want to prevent obesity, we have to get people to eat less, but if we want to prevent undernutrition, we have to make more food available. What do we do? " (PP.30-31)

( Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes )

3.Though we say we became wealthy, how is the quality of our food?

I want to explain my consideration based on 1 and 2.
First of all, in order to consider “obesity”, isn’t it too simple to believe that “obesity increased since we became wealthy”? 

▽It is certain that our life is much freer and is wealthier in a sense that we have a lot of things. If we have certain income, we can do what we like and eat what we want.

However, when the income is low, we can’t spend a lot for food. Also, we don’t have enough time to eat.
We might disproportionately take too much carbohydrate like eating toast and coffee for breakfast and burger or a cup of noodles for lunch. We might skip breakfast.

In addition, those who get fat easily try to eat simple light meal since they ate a lot the day before. The idea of offsetting an over intake of calories from yesterday, eating less today, is wrong. 

That is to say, even if someone is said to be wealthy, in regards to  food, there are many things in common with groups in poverty with a high rate of obesity. As Mr. Gary says, what is important now is the “quality” of food rather than the “quantity”.

4.Underweight and obesity can coexist

I will explain that underweight and overweight can coexist through the previous content mentioned earlier in “The coexistence of underweight and overweight poses a challenge to public health programs.

▽I repeat that when I was very thin about 30kg, at first I was eating a lot of high-calorie food but I couldn’t gain any weight. And then, I realized that I can gain weight by creating “intestinal starvation”.


The easiest way to create intestinal starvation was to take carbohydrate and good protein, but since it lacked vegetables and minerals, I felt dizzy by the undernutrition. 
If I eat milk, egg, vegetable, beans and fish to add nutrition and mineral, though nutrition is better, I couldn’t gain any weight. For me, it was because I couldn’t digest them well.

So, even if they eat similar food in the same group, it may lead to a different result in the body. Some people who digested all the food they ate in their whole intestines may have become obese. However, those who did not digest all the food in their whole intestines remained underweight.

A small difference sometimes makes a big difference in the result. Whether or not they are overweight is not based on the amount of intake of calories they eat.

 "Not all of us get fat when we eat carbohydrates, but for those of us who do get fat, the carbohydrates are to blame; the fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be. (p.134)

These foods are also, almost invariably, the cheapest calories available. This is the conspicuous explanation for why the poorer we are, the fatter we're likely to be." (P.150)

(Citation from “Why We Get Fat?” by Gary Taubes)

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