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An Ignorant Way To Prevent Disease

The Mississippi state legislature in the U.S. is considering a bill that would not allow restaurants to serve obese people. How ignorant could the legislature be? Apparently, extremely so!

The obesity problem that now affects over 1/3rd of the U.S. population is a problem that stems from education, or lack of it. Restaurants and food companies are also charged with abetting the obesity crisis but they can only do so to those who lack education, rationalize or just don't care. With education, the caring aspect can be changed around. The lunacy of the legislature proves them as uneducated as the obese.

Research has shown that those who have been educated in nutrition make better choices when eating. This bill would not solve any problems, it would create more. First of all, restaurateurs aren't in business for the skinny man. Not only would this bill limit the amount of customers, but they would also limit the amount people order and therefore spend, since it can be assumed that obese people eat more than their skinny counterparts. Another fact to consider is who is actually obese? A weightlifter can weigh a lot and may look obese on the charts yet has very low body fat.

As recently reported in USA Today, many people disagree with the bill.

Timothy Church, director of preventive medicine research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, says the idea for the proposed law is "insane. I don't even know how to react to something so bizarre. This is five steps backward. This is not how you address the problem on so many levels. "And what about civil rights? It's totally unenforceable, and you'd be alienating people. Most people who are obese don't want to be that way. "Morgan Downey, executive director of the Obesity Society, an organization of weight-loss researchers and professionals, calls the proposed law "the most ill-conceived plan to address a public health crisis ever proposed."

The way to fight the obesity crisis is education. Education does not begin in restaurants. Is the restaurateur in the business of education or food service? Registered Dietitians, Doctors and other health professionals need to take charge of the egregious obesity crisis and advocate education. If nutrition is taught as a subject in school, just like math or science, people would identify with it more. The adage, out of sight, out of mind, is unfortunately the current state of affairs in the nutrition world. What are people exposed to more, fast food commercials or fruit commercials? This is ludicrous; obesity can and should be prevented! By focusing on embarrassing people, Mississippi will not solve the obesity crisis. By focusing on education, they have a fighting chance. It is imperative and admirable that a state is recognizing the obesity crisis, but recognizing isn't enough. They must look to the educators, do research and find a way that works.

In addition, recent studies have shown that those who have obese friends are more likely to be obese and both parties deem it acceptable. The alarming fact that there are more obese people in the world today than malnourished people puts an added burden on the budget. As a single healthy person, I pay $360.00 per month for health insurance. This outrageous fee would be abated if there were less sick people. Since heart disease is the number one cause of death in this country and it is directly related to obesity, the heart attack rate would diminsh with decreased obesity. Imagine the savings in healthcare if half the bypasses weren't needed? Billions of dollars and lives can be saved and I would pay less for health insurance.

So Mississippi, you are lauded for attempting to take a stance on this critical issue, now you need to educate yourself on how to do so.

Shari Portnoy, MPH, RD, LD/N is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She holds degrees in both Nutrition and Public Health and has completed the U.S. Food Laws course at the Michigan State University Institute of Food Laws. She has been a featured speaker at the American Culinary Federation National Convention and a board member of the American Dietetic Association.

Reference Source 129, 167
February 14, 2008


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