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Analysis | The Correlation Between Obesity and Poverty

Photo by Christopher Williams on Unsplash

Obesity is a very large and common issue throughout the world. There are many different factors as to why obesity is so common, such as overeating, health conditions, lack of exercise, and one common issue many don’t speak of. This issue is poverty and lack of education.

People are not aware of what they consume and how it affects their bodies, and when one is unable to supply a sustainable amount of healthy food, they obtain issues regarding their health and weight. Common among countries with a large difference within social classes, many who are under-middle class live off of foods that contain unhealthy and addictive chemicals, which have a large impact on one’s physical health.  

For instance, the country with the highest percentage of obesity in the world is Mexico. Mexico suffers from famine and according to Knoema’s World Data Atlas, “In 2018, poverty rate at the national poverty line for Mexico was 41.9 %.” Almost half of Mexico’s population is below the poverty line. As stated in OECD.org, “About 73% of the Mexican population is overweight (compared to one-fifth of the population in 1996)… In addition, 34% of obese are morbidly obese – the highest level of obesity.”

In this case, poverty correlates to health problems relating to obesity, as healthy foods aren’t as accessible compared to fast food or canned foods. These foods contain MSG, preservatives, and other chemicals that are not meant to be consumed regularly. Because these foods are cheaper and taste better, this attracts a lot of people to buy them, rather than healthier options. Another factor contributing to obesity is the price, for organic foods and meals without MSG are more expensive. Essentially, these people are gaining health problems that are unavoidable due to the vast range of prices varying from healthy foods and unhealthy foods. 

How does this happen? It all starts with someone who has a low-income job and a large family. Because of this person’s low-income lifestyle, they are unable to provide a sufficient education for their children. These children are now going to act off of their instinct and eat what they crave. These foods are cheap and easy to buy, so the adults are okay with them.

Now, these children are having health problems and don’t understand why it is happening. These kids now grow up to have the same issue, with a low-income job and needing a cheap way to provide meals for their family, so they stick to canned goods and junk food. These options are cheaper and more accessible compared to fresh food products and organic supplements. Now there is this cycle of unhealthy dietary and consumption habits, which according to UNICEF, “The lack of access to fresh and healthy foods, the aggressive marketing of food products directed at children and high exposure to ultra-processed food in homes, schools, and markets, all contribute to an unhealthy environment.”

Obesity prevention within people who are below middle class should be prioritized, for restaurants and grocery stores should offer healthier alternatives that are accessible and cheaper for the people. Schools should also inform those about how their caloric intake can determine their health in the future. Furthermore, if people are educated about how what they consume affects their health, there will be a decrease in health problems regarding obesity.

According to OPEC, “Acting on the mechanisms that make individuals who are poorly educated and in disadvantaged socio-economic circumstances so vulnerable to obesity, and those at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum much more able to handle obesogenic environments.” People should be informed about what they are eating and the number of calories they consume, and by doing so, restaurants should be required to share the number of calories of each meal.

As stated by OPEC, by “Acting on the mechanisms that make individuals who are poorly educated and in disadvantaged socio-economic circumstances so vulnerable to obesity, and those at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum much more able to handle obesogenic environments.”

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