The war on obesity: Heavy weapons

IT HAS become a cliché to call obesity a big problem for a reason: more than 2.1 billion people, or nearly 30% of the global population, are overweight or obese. Excess weight leads to about 5% of worldwide deaths. On current trends, almost half of the world’s adults will be fat by 2030. Over the past three decades, according to a study in the Lancet, a medical journal, no nation has slimmed down.It’s enough to drive a person to comfort eating. But a new study from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the consultancy’s research arm, offers some hope. It looks at 74 anti-obesity measures around the world, and judges the cost and impact of the 44 for which there were sufficient data. None alone could do much, it concludes, but all 44 together could mean about a fifth of overweight people achieving a reasonable waistline within five to ten years.The interventions range from nudges (making healthy eating choices easier) to shoves (taking poor eating choices away). The most effective would force food producers and restaurants to make servings smaller and limit fatty ingredients (see chart). Others are less paternalistic, such as…

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