Is The Economy Making Us Fat?

Will the shrinking economy expand our waistlines?

Dieticians warn it very well might.

Almost two-thirds of Americans are already considered overweight, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Gielan, and with rising prices at the grocery store, nutritionists say the percentage could grow as more people turn to fast foods, and eat more overall because they feel stressed-out.

Hungry consumers are finding a buck goes a long way at fast food outlets, and the burger business is booming.

"If your bank account has just tanked, you've lost your job, and you are worried about keeping your house, you're not going to be spending a lot of money on food if you can avoid it," observes NYU Food Studies Professor Marion Nestle.

For instance, McDonald's recently reported strong third quarter sales, but nutrition experts worry more consumption of fast food in general may lead to more weight gain and resulting health problems.

Says Nestle, "McDonald's is doing really well now as people have flocked to it, because the cost is low, they know what they're going to be eating, they like the taste of the food, and they're not concerned about whether it's too high in fat sugars and salt."

As a result, dieticians say, fast food is becoming more appealing than cooking with fresh ingredients.

"They're going to be looking for the cheapest calories they can find, and those calories are not necessarily the ones that are best for health," Nestle says.

It's not just inexpensive fast foods threatening America's girth. Heather Bauer, author of "The Wall Street Diet," written for busy execs, says stressful times lead to what she calls "stress eating."

"You get home from work," Bauer explained, "you're exhausted, you turn on the TV, and it's just very doom and gloom. Every time you change the channel, it's about the economy, and people eat, they go to food, because it's just very calming and soothing."

What's more, despite offering clients huge discounts, gyms around the country are reporting declining membership, due in part to the sluggish economy, and that could add to a perfect recipe for increased American obesity.

Nutritionists point out that eating healthy is actually a good investment, since fewer health problems down the road could mean you save money on health care.
  • CBSNews

Comments