If it is true that everyone everywhere in the world is getting fatter and fatter, why is it?
Obesity: The Biography looks at this claim and the very notion of “global obesity” as the major contemporary public health threat and puts it into historical perspective. The various claims as to what obesity is, what causes it, who gets fat (and fatter), is looked at from the medicine of the ancient Greeks, who used food as therapy to contemporary America, where “organic” food is thought to be just as effective in preventing illness. The medical history of obesity, of diet, and of exercise, from the Bible’s condemnation of eating pork to Benjamin Franklin, who founded the very first swimming club, gives us an insight into complex social and cultural meanings associated with food and fat.
Today’s science, from genetics to the study of infectious diseases, is equally concerned with obesity – and this science too is part of a culture that needs to control body size as a means of preserving health. Yet do we really want the government to tell us how much salt and fat we can eat? The claims of our modern science of obesity seem to be moving in that direction. Can we imagines a 21st-century “speak-easy” where we knock on the door, give the secret password and can get – food the way we want it! That seems to be the future.
About the author: Sander Gilman is an American scholar at Emory University in Atlanta, USA.
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