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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Obesity and the Microwave

So I have an odd cultural theory. There's been a lot in the news lately about the epidemic of obesity in America (and many other developed nations, but boy are we ever leading the pack), and I got to thinking about what has changed in the last 20 or so years. I've heard a previous correlation between the advent of the "Have You Seen This Child" milk carton campaign and childhood obesity, apparently the result of more cautious parents driving their children to school. But why so many adults as well? Not all of us are children of the 70s and 80s who that would affect.

The microwave began gaining general acceptance in the mid-seventies, and by the mid-eighties was in most homes. Suddenly, food could be cooked much faster, and reheating leftovers was a snap, taking one or two minutes instead of twenty.

This was followed by the production of tons of microwave oriented foods - frozen soft pretzels, frozen bagels, frozen dinners in microwave trays, Hot Pockets, microwaveable hot syrups for ice cream, microwave popcorn, and so on. This allowed the pace of life to increase as well, and eating on the run became far more common. Today, it's much faster and easier to get a meal, or at least plenty of calories, in under five minutes, where a meal would've taken much longer in the past. Even boiling a pot of water takes more than five minutes.

Now some would argue that the microwaved food is inherently dangerous, but I don't think that's it at all. I think it's just much more convenient, and it's trained us to expect food within a relatively short period of time. Going from hungry to food now is much faster than it used to be.

Were I a grad student instead of a staff member at Stanford, I'd consider doing research on the sociological/biological impact of microwaved food and rates of obesity related to use of microwave in cooking to see if my hunch is right or if I'm just spinning a yarn, but I'm not a student. Someone else can take this one on instead. Maybe I'll suggest it to the Stanford Preventative Medicine Research group on campus.

2 Comments:

  • I guess someone formalized your theory: http://www.naturalnews.com/023050.html

    By Blogger Carlo, at 9:04 AM  

  • I heard a very interesting theory on forum about how a lack of dietary fiber is one of the main culprits.
    http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R608151000

    since microwaves mostly deal with processed food, and since the food processing industry follows the microwave time-line in a similar fashion, it does seem that microwaves could just be a coincidence, or a result of the heavy processing of our foods, which removes the fiber content.

    By Blogger christophe, at 1:10 PM  

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