Obesity now a ‘lifestyle’ choice for Americans, expert says

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WASHINGTON, Jan 12, 2008 (AFP) – As adult obesity balloons in the United States, being overweight has become less of a health hazard and more of a lifestyle choice, the author of a new book argues. “Obesity is a natural extension of an advancing economy. As you become a First World economy and you get all these labour-saving devices and low-cost, easily accessible foods, people are going to eat more and exercise less,” health economist Eric Finkelstein told AFP.

In “The Fattening of America,” published this month, Finkelstein says adult obesity more than doubled in the US between 1960 and 2004, rising from 13 percent to around 33 percent.

Globally, only Saudi Arabia fares worse than the United States in terms of the percentage of adults with severe weight problems — 35 percent of people in the oil-rich desert kingdom are classified as obese, the book says, citing data from the World Health Organization and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

With the rising tide of obesity come health problems and an increased burden on the healthcare system and industry.

“But the nasty side-effects of obesity aren’t as nasty as they used to be,” Finkelstein said. “When you ha