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1976-80 1988-94 1976-80 1988-94 1976-80 1988-94

Figure 1.5 Obesity prevalence among ethnic groups in the USA, illustrating the disparity that exists between different ethnic groups, particularly amongst women, in the level of overweight and obesity in the USA. Source: Flegal et al. (17)

1976-80 1988-94 1976-80 1988-94 1976-80 1988-94

Figure 1.5 Obesity prevalence among ethnic groups in the USA, illustrating the disparity that exists between different ethnic groups, particularly amongst women, in the level of overweight and obesity in the USA. Source: Flegal et al. (17)

factors in determining individual susceptibility to obesity, these cannot explain the current obesity epidemic. The rapid rise in global obesity rates has occurred in too short a time for there to have been any significant genetic modifications within populations. This suggests that changes to the environment—physical, socio-cultural, economic and political—are primarily responsible for the epidemic and that genetics, age, sex, hormonal effects and other such factors influence the susceptibility of individuals to weight gain who are living in that environment.

There are a number of societal forces which underlie the environmental changes implicated in the obesity epidemic. These include modernization, economic restructuring and transition to market economies, increasing urbanization, changing occupational structures, technical and scientific developments, political change, and globalization of food markets. Many of these factors are associated with improved standards of living and other societal advances but urban crowding, increasing unemployment, family and community breakdown, and dis placement of traditional foodstuffs by Westernized high-fat products and other negative changes have also been a product of this process. The end result is often a move to weight-gain-promoting dietary habits and physical activity patterns.

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