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Poor Fast Food Regulation Tied to Obesity

Update Date: Feb 03, 2014 12:16 PM EST

Obesity is caused by several factors, which include unhealthy food options and a lack of physical activity. Even though an overwhelmingly large number of studies have found that obesity can lead to many health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, the obesity epidemic is still at large. Now, according to a new study, governments could help reduce obesity rates if they regulated the fast food market.

"Unless governments take steps to regulate their economies, the invisible hand of the market will continue to promote obesity worldwide with disastrous consequences for future public health and economic productivity," said Roberto De Vogli of the University of California, Davis, in the United States, who led the study according to FOX News.

For this study, the researchers examined the data on people's body mass index (BMI) from 25 high-income countries. BMI measures obesity by calculating one's weight in relation to height. The data was gathered from 1999 through to 2008. The team looked at the fast food market, which includes burgers, chips and sweetened beverages and the amount of fast foods people purchased.

The researchers discovered that during this time frame, the average number of fast foods purchased per year increased from 26.61 to 32.76 per person. The researchers found that the number of people who purchased fast foods increased in all 25 nations. The largest increases were seen in Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand. With more fast foods transactions occurring, the researchers also found that average BMI increased from 25.8 to 26.4. A BMI of or over 25 is considered overweight and a BMI of or over 30 is considered obese.

"Virtually all nations have undergone a process of market deregulation and globalization - especially in the last three decades," Vogli said.

Some ways that the government could intervene and help reduce obesity levels are to include monetary gains for people who grow and sell healthy produce, and to create stricter guidelines for companies that advertise unhealthy foods to young children.

The study was published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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