Obesity in the U.S.

The culture-bound syndrome I chose to discuss was obesity in the U.S. I found an article written by James Levine. entitled “Poverty and Obesity in the U.S.,” which focused on finding a connection between the increased incidence of obesity and increased rates of poverty in the United States. It is evident that obesity is a serious and relevant issue in the United States. With American’s busy schedules and the availability of fast food, it is easier than ever to choose unhealthy food. Levine remarks that cultures that develop wealth, also tend to develop obesity. The United State is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and also has the highest obesity rates. Although genetics can play a role in obesity, it seems that in the United States there may be another explanation. Although the United States is one of the wealthiest countries, the rates of poverty are on the rise, at about 15% of Americans living in poverty. Levine goes on to question if their could be a link between poverty and obesity. Research has found that people who live in the most poverty dense counties are more likely to be obese. Several reasons for this trend could be poor access to fresh food, or lack of money to afford healthier food. Snacks and processed foods are much cheaper and so those who are living in poverty may only be able to afford unhealthy food that lack essential nutrients. Another possible issue could be lack of education about the importance of good nutrition and exercise. Many Americans who are living in poverty are also not as educated than those living above the poverty line, and so they may not understand what those foods that they are eating are doing to their bodies. Whether it be genetic, cultural, or behavioral it is evident that their needs to be more intervention to try and change the increasing rates of obesity in the United States.

Levine, James. “Poverty and Obesity in the U.S.” DIABETES JOURNAL Vol.60. http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/60/11/2667.full.pdf+html (accessed July 18, 2014).



This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Rolando Barajas says:

    Culture represents the roles and customs an individual plays in their respective society that allows them to seem normal in that society. It’s not only relative to a signal individual but also to a population as a whole. Each decision an individual makes is (most likely) predetermined by their culture because it is a system that the individual is born in and is (most likely) all they are exposed to. Thus culturally if an individual gets sick from a certain disease they will partake in a healing method that pertains to their culture whether it be a ritual, ceremony or talking and seeing a professional biomedical expert, culture encompasses many decisions in an individual’s life.

    Obesity in my opinion isn’t a culture bound syndrome because it’s not really specific to any one “culture”. Although there is a correlation of obesity and low financial stability its not really a culture all in its own. You could have many people who are very wealthy and still be obese and have obese related issues; it’s just not as commonly seen as in those who are forced to lead unhealthy lifestyles.

    Given that obesity happens in another culture where food source is scarce and only available through economic means, one might expect that the individuals who have wealth be the ones to have the most food and desire the most food, thus leading to individuals who might be obese.

  2. Ethan Gotz says:

    Sarah, you made some really great points in your post, and Rolando, your comment was well-written also. I believe that culture is a particular lifestyle that a group of individuals chose to live by in a particular society. Not one individual can chose the customs of a particular culture; rather, the group as a whole determine the customs. Culture can determine what kind of food that society eats, what clothes the society wears, what music is accepted within the culture, what kind of employment is available to that society, etc. There are probably many more influences that culture plays on a particular society.
    Rolando, I disagree with your opinion on how you believe that obesity is not a culture bound syndrome. Although there are many different societies that contain obese citizens, obesity is a major problem in some countries and societies because of the food that culture chooses to eat. Sarah made up a great point about how fast food is easier than ever to obtain because of how cheap it is and how abundant fast food is these days. There are many countries that have not yet developed, or have refused to develop, the type of fast food that the United States has today. Therefore, those countries eat a lot healthier than we do and have a way less obese rate. There are probably studies shown that wealthier people are even eating more fast food than in previous years, purely due to convenience.
    I believe that in cultures where food is scarce and hard to obtain, those individuals may view these people as healthy because they actually have the opportunity to eat, where anorexia and other illnesses that may result when food is scarce are considered to be there culture-bound syndrome.

  3. Kelly Cummins says:

    In my own words, I would define the word culture as the common beliefs and customs of a group of people that are found in a certain geographical area. I think that obesity cannot be defined as a culture-bound syndrome because although it happens most frequently in the United States, it is found in many other cultures besides our own. Other countries still recognize this syndrome as legitimate while most other culture bound syndromes, western medicine will not define as real. Often, we will attribute these culture bound syndromes to psychological issues.

    I do think it would be much more difficult to define this condition in other cultures where it is not found, especially in geographical areas where food is scarce. I think the best way to define it would be to say it is a mental illness that consists of being addicted to food as if it were a drug. The brains of these individuals often have trouble sending signals to alert that they are full. With this issue on top of having access to large amounts of food, creates these issues in America and Europe that are rarely found in other cultures.

  4. Lydia Saracina says:

    Culture, may be defined as the customs and traditions of a group of people that determine lifestyle and social interactions as well as an individual’s relationships with themselves. I would say that obesity can definitely be defined as a culturally bound syndrome, but not necessarily just as in the United States, as was mentioned above. It affects many other cultures as well, but it is the general “Western Culture” that tends to struggle with Obesity. For this reason I would say that Obesity is not exclusive to just the United States, but can be attributed to Western thought, therefore as globalization becomes more and more prevalent, we see that Obesity is trending into countries that are further along in “development” by the West’s standards.
    Another culture may describe the issue of Obesity as something that is seen in the United States, therefore I think that it is known that there are certain disadvantages to becoming a developed country. In South Africa’s case, their obesity levels have greatly increased since the government has become a democratic state. This trending gives the world the ability to really grasp where obesity is coming from, and ways in which it can be prevented in the future.

Leave a Reply