Obesity, chronic disease, and economic growth: a case for "big picture" prevention

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Egger, G 2011, 'Obesity, chronic disease, and economic growth: a case for "big picture" prevention', Advances in Preventative Medicine, vol. 2011.

Published article available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.4061/2011/149158

Peer Reviewed



The discovery of a form of chronic, low-grade systemic inflammation (“metaflammation”) linked with obesity, but also associated with several lifestyle-related behaviours not necessarily causing obesity, suggests a re-consideration of obesity as a direct cause of chronic disease and a search for the main drivers—or cause of causes. Factors contributing to this are considered here within an environmental context, leading to the conclusion that humans have an immune reaction to aspects of the modern techno-industrial environment, to which they have not fully adapted. It is suggested that economic growth—beyond a point—leads to increases in chronic diseases and climate change and that obesity is a signal of these problems. This is supported by data from Sweden over 200 years, as well as “natural” experiments in disrupted economies like Cuba and Nauru, which have shown a positive health effect with economic downturns. The effect is reflected both in human health and environmental problems such as climate change, thus pointing to the need for greater cross-disciplinary communication and a concept shift in thinking on prevention if economic growth is to continue to benefit human health and well-being.

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