Fast Food: Obesity Rising Around the Globe

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What’s the connection between fast food and obesity? Are the two really connected?

The truth is that fast food and obesity have a clear link. With the rise of fast food over the last half-century, obesity has also increased significantly.

Read more about fast food and obesity and how they’re connected.

Fast Food and Obesity

As fast food has spread throughout the world, so has one of its worst by-products—obesity. The US already has the highest rate of obesity among industrialized countries, a trend largely driven by growing fast food consumption. In 1991, only four states had obesity rates reaching 15 percent; by the dawn of the 21st century, 37 did.

(Shortform note: This trend has only gotten worse since the publication of Fast Food Nation. According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control, every US state and territory has self-reported adult obesity rates over 20 percent. The worst US state is Mississippi, with an obesity rate of 37.3 percent. Even more alarming is the overseas territory of American Samoa, where a whopping 75 percent of adults identified themselves as obese.)

By 2001, obesity-related healthcare costs had risen to a staggering $240 billion, with Americans spending in excess of $33 billion on weight loss regimens and diet programs. Beyond just the financial cost, the human costs are immense: severely overweight people are four times as likely to die young as people of normal weight.
These health conditions are now increasingly seen in other parts of the world, as fast food continues its seemingly unstoppable march of global conquest. Between 1984 and 1993, fast food locations in the United Kingdom doubled, leaving American-style obesity in their wake. The British consume more fast food than any other Western European country; they also claim the continent’s highest rate of obesity. Not to be outdone, China saw its proportion of overweight teenagers triple during the 1990s; meanwhile, at the dawn of the 21st century, one-third of all Japanese men in their 30s are overweight.

Fast Food: Obesity Rising Around the Globe

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Fast Food Nation summary:

  • How the fast food industry reshaped the American economy
  • How fast food marketing is manipulating you
  • Why the rise of fast food has destroyed family farms across America

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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