Considering the contribution of U.S. food and agricultural policy to the obesity epidemic: overview and opportunities

Considering the contribution of U.S. food and agricultural policy to the obesity epidemic: overview and opportunities

Does US agriculture policy contribute to obesity?

Nearly one in three American adults are now obese and two-thirds are overweight or obese. These proportions have increased steadily over the past 30 years. Direct and indirect costs of obesity alone have been estimated at $117 billion. This paper explores the relationship between US griculture policy and obesity. The paper argues that current federal agriculture policies fail to supply Americans with enough of the domestically produced fruits and vegetables, whole grains and other foods that they need for a healthy diet.

The paper discusses the following:

  • trends in the supply and consumption of food produced in America, focusing on added fats and sugars
  • the evolution of agricultural policy, along with technological changes that have greatly affected today’s cropping systems
  • the relationship between negative trends in individual health with the nutritional value of foods produced, the availability and price of those foods, and U.S. agricultural policies that encourage their production.

It concludes with the following recommendations for the US government:

  • develop a vision of health in agriculture by increasing the discussion around the role of agriculture policy and nutrition and promote health school programmes which provide children with access to fresh fruits and vegitables
  • support research on how relative food prices impact consumption
  • broaden public discussion around health and agricultural policy to include farmers, environmental groups, and other public interest organisations
  • explore the relationship between commodity prices and corporate marketing to children
  • develop a more nuanced discussion of commodity subsidies by providing policy makers with a broaden environmental nutrition perspective
  • explore the pros and cons of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) having regulatory authority over nutrition and food assistance programs affecting child nutrition, including those in the Farm Bill, as well as other programs like the National School Lunch Program.
  1. How good is this research?

    Assessing the quality of research can be a tricky business. This blog from our editor offers some tools and tips.