Friday, October 02, 2009

The High Price of Obesity

The "girth-wealth" gradient:
About 9 percent of health-care costs are directly attributable to obesity, which led Dubner to wonder if we should assess a fat tax (on fat food, that is, not people) as a way of picking up the tab. One strong objection would be that such a tax would likely be extremely regressive: “[S]ickness, poverty, and obesity are spun together in a dense web of reciprocal causality,” writes Daniel Engber regarding what he calls the “girth-wealth” gradient. To sum it up: the poorer you are, the fatter you’re likely to be; and the fatter you get, the poorer you’re likely to become. So it may be that the obesity fight and income inequality are one and the same.


The Grid said...

We have a "fat tax" here in Australia, known as GST. Fruit, vegetables, meat (and other healthy essentials) are exempt from the tax, and yes it is regressive. The goal of a "fat tax" would be to make junk food more expensive. When KFC dinners are no longer cheaper than home boiled cabbage, lower income families might become "forced" to eat healthier? It's a long shot, but not impossible. Either that, or your govt could fish deeper into your national deficit and increase the subsidies on your fruit and veg markets?

l4k said...

This presupposes that that government knows what healthy foods are. Science writer Gary Taubes argues quite persuasively in his book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” that most diet advice is pseudoscience.

Nic "RedWord" Smith said...

Actually, it's worse than that. Taubes argues that the best evidence, which still leaves a lot to be desired, flies right in the face of government recommendations and that carbohydrates, currently heavily subsidized, are the cause of most cases of obesity. As it's most likely to be implemented, a "fat tax" in the the U.S. would be a double whammy -- we'd be taxing healthy foods, and still be subsidizing the foods that are unhealthy!