Suiker in perspectief Jubileum editie | november 2019

Book introduction |7 Suiker in perspectief, Jubileum 2019 Book introduction 'EVER SEEN A FAT FOX?' Everyone who sits down to write a book on food and health has an agenda of sorts. In my case, the agenda was to show the highly complex nature of obesity and to try and reduce the social impact of simple solutions to the problem. Since writing this book, I have received many emails bearing photographs of fat foxes. However, all were of captive foxes and thus fattened by the hand of their owner. But in the feral world, the fox only eats enough to stay alive and alert and to reproduce. Excessive eating is a biological waste of food for foxes. But humans live in a vastly more complex world than foxes and like it or not, we have constructed a way of life that would appear to favour the development of obesity. We are surrounded by highly attractive and palatable food at affordable prices and we live in a world which is highly conducive to a sedentary lifestyle. Perhaps the most perplexing aspects of this epidemic is that, whilst we are all exposed to this obesogenic environment, only some of us will go on to become obese. Twin studies suggest that the risk of developing overweight and obesity is largely heritable and only partially explained by our learned environment. But the genetic dimension should not be considered only in terms of metabolism but it must enter the highly complex world of human behaviour. At the end of the day, it is an excess of calories ingested over those expended, that leads to obesity. But what drives that excessive intake? The answers are not obvious because the search for such is so difficult. In this book, I try to address these issues. But understanding what drives obesity is only one part of the problem. The question remains as to how those causative factors can be controlled and that raises the issue of personal responsibility and the responsible role of society. The latter is the most popular in the regulatory environment with the introduction of sugar taxes, restriction on sales outlets and advertising standards, to name but a few. But the bottom line is that if obesity costs annually about 2000 to 3000 euros per head of population, then the only way forward is to spend a sizable amount of money in highly targeted and coordinated public health nutrition programmes. I know of no government that comes remotely close to this level of commitment. This book tackles all of the many elements of the problem of obesity, from its very definition, to the nature of the modern food chain, the drivers of food intake, the role of genes, the dilemma for policy makers and the very sensitive issue of the stigmatisation of obesity. I greatly welcome its translation to the Dutch language and to its new electronic issue. For me, the Netherlands has always been a world leader in nutrition research and my hope would be that this book will inspire discussion and debate and open up new strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity. Prof. Michael J Gibney, Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin.