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The dia-obesogenetic environment

  • March 1st, 2013

It took 30 years of winding up before official New Zealand could tolerate blunt speaking and advertising on drunk driving. We cannot control it by penalties and enforcement alone. Eventually it was accepted that we had to end social toleration of drunk driving. We've had to 'marginalise' drunks who drive. 

I hope it does not take so long to get to effectiveness on the diabetes epidemic. The problem is that lazy greedy people get fat and sick. They may have been genetically unlucky. They get fat more readily than others. Their unlucky children start off with greater risk. Recently reported research in New Zealand says they are often browner than the more active, skinnier ones.

But the health and nanny industry is cranking itself up to blame everyone but the lazy greedy people. They'll waste their time avoiding the most effective social mechanisms for direct change in the vulnerable group attitudes to over-eating and laziness. Most of our effective socialisation uses both positive and negative reinforcements. It can depend on broad and often unfair generalisations, otherwise known as 'stereotyping', and discrimination. 

So we'll spend decades and the lives and health of hundreds of thousands before we get really blunt and effective public leadership in this area.

Otago's Prof Jim Mann was interviewed by Radio NZ on the population blood study report just released. He mentioned the significance of  "ethnicity". It seems that the 'hungry gene' peoples (including Polynesian and Indian) suffer from a genetic propensity for diabetes to result from over-eating and under-exercising. That is bad luck. I  sympathise. My inheritance turns sugar indulgence to high cholesterol and atherosclerosis.

But referring, I think, to the temptations to eat too much fat and sugar, Prof Mann used the wonderful term "dia-obesogenic environment". It seems we will all have to play our part in ending this environment.

Look out Pascals, Whittakers, Coca Cola, Cadbury's, KFC, ….and eventually Fonterra. You will be vilified. They've come after the cigarette manufacturers. You're next.

In my opinion, from experience as an MP, an adviser to bureaucrats, and a staunch binger on various things that are bad for me, there are sensible ways the target industries can prepare. They could help us all and help preserve freedoms. But not if they are as squeamish as their adversaries about ensuring  blunt truths are spoken.

They will not be effective speaking bluntly themselves. But they could ensure that others are able to do so.  Nevertheless I doubt that we will see them acting effectively.


  • Nikki Pender
  • March 1st, 2013
  • 9:05 am

The obesity epidemic is the elephant in the room

  • Mike
  • March 8th, 2013
  • 9:03 am

Stephen, from this piece I’m not entirely sure where you stand on over-eating and under-exercising as you’re a little caged on the subject. However, if that’s the direction in which your thinking is heading, I would suggest you read Gary Taubes’ book ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ which chronicles the past century’s research in this regard. I promise you it will be well worth your time.

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