Obesity has been in the headlines a lot recently, and quite rightly so. It is the second biggest killer in the world with over 400,000 deaths a year, compared with 435,000 from smoking. As well as this, 10% of all children worldwide are either overweight or obese. That's 155m children between the ages of 5 and 17.
The reasons for such high levels of obesity are complicated, but the main issues are financial, social and psychological.
In relative terms, food is now half the price that it was 50 years ago. This means that people can afford to eat as much as they like. With advances in storage and shelf-life as well as the opportunities to purchase food at any time and in any location, food can also be eaten at any time, day or night.
Obesity is prevalent in many prosperous countries. And yet the majority of people who are clinically overweight are generally the poorest in each of these societies. A reason for this is that food provides comfort and is often the least expensive way of giving some temporary solace when we are faced by life's problems.
The trouble is, the types of food that are comforting and affordable are usually those high in fat or sugars and those which lack nutrition. Processed food now accounts for more than 50% of everything we eat.
We all get caught up in what we should and shouldn't eat; low or high carb, this or that diet. But another major issue, and one which probably has the biggest impact on obesity, is not so much what we eat, but how much! And, after all, food companies are businesses that have been set up to sell food -- not to restrict the amount we consume.
To deal with the issue, government needs to get involved; perhaps by taxing foods that are detrimental to the nation's health and ploughing back the monies raised into development of solutions. So, instead of so many cheap and nasty foods on the market, the industry would be encouraged to develop lower price, healthy and good quality food.
Mark Rigby is director, DCN firstname.lastname@example.org