The Ironic Politics of Obesity

Prof. Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH

New York University

Tuesday, April 13, 2004 - 12:15pm to 1:15pm
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Although hundreds of millions of people throughout the world lack food as a result of economic inequities, hundreds of millions more are overweight to the point of increased risk of diet-related chronic diseases. Wealthy countries such as the United States have up to twice as much food as can be consumed by the population on a daily basis. This situation causes intense competitiveness among food companies because they have only two choices: to get people to eat more of their foods than those of competitors, or to get people to eat more in general. Food companies pursue these goals through advertising, marketing strategies to encourage food consumption, adding nutrients, marketing to selected target populations, and selling abroad. This presentation describes how overabundant food leads to overconsumption and explores its health, economic, and ethical consequences.

Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, is Professor and Director of Public Health Initiatives in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley. Her first faculty position was in the Department of Biology at Brandeis University. From 1976-86 she was Associate Dean of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, where she taught nutrition to medical students, residents, and practicing physicians, and directed a nutrition education center sponsored by the American Cancer Society. From 1986-88, she was senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General.s Report on Nutrition and Health. She has been a member of the FDA Food Advisory Committee and Science Board, the USDA/DHHS 1995 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and American Cancer Society committees that issue dietary guidelines for cancer prevention. Her research focuses on analysis of the scientific, social, cultural, and economic factors that influence dietary recommendations and practices. She is the author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (2002) and Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism (2003), both from University of California Press. In 2003, Food Politics won awards from the Association for American Publishers (outstanding professional and scholarly title in nursing and allied health), James Beard Foundation (literary), and World Hunger Year (Harry Chapin media).