Health, Wealth, Girth, Dearth

We’ve always thought that in order to interest fiscally conservative lawmakers in taking more of an interest in progressive health policies, it is necessary to use economic arguments; that is, doing X will actually save taxpayers Y dollars and increase corporate profits.

Conversely, a recent analysis in the New York Times uses economic numbers to make the case that liberal eating is not only a health problem but also a wealth problem. In short, obesity results in lower income and higher costs of living.

On average, the obese get lower-paying jobs, have higher medical expenses and die sooner with less accumulated wealth than those in the middle of the bell curve.

In one study, scientists measured the societal cost of supersizing a fast-food meal and found the extra 17 percent in cost for 73 percent more calories translates to $6.64 for a man and $3.46 for a woman in future medical costs.

This kind of analysis is clever but misses two important points: First, if we had a more reasonable health care system, cost would be less of an issue than health. Second, supersizing is not just a 21st Century marketing issue; it is how people have survived famine and poverty since the dawn of mankind — maximizing the number of calories and minimizing their cost.

Which explains the universal popularity of rice and beans. Habits that are ingrained, if you will.

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