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Pinpointing the Root of the Nation's Obesity Problem

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | November 8, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | November 8, 2010 |

My wife’s parents were hippies, and I’m not talking about Steve and Elyse Keaton hippies. They were hardcore back-to-the-landers. They moved out into the middle of nowhere, built a house (and I mean “built the house” not “had a house built”), and essentially lived off the grid for two decades. What that meant was, in addition to no running water or indoor plumbing, my wife grew up without electricity, which is to say: She had no television. So, to pass the time, she spent hours thumbing through issues of National Geographic that outdated her by a decade (it explains a lot about her: She’s both remarkably intelligent and worldly for someone who grew up literally in the middle of nowhere, but thanks to magazine ads that were targeted at National Geographic’s upscale readers, she also has a fondness for shiny things).

On a recent visit to my father-in-law’s house (he’s no longer off the grid; in fact, he’s a successful fundraiser for the Pew Organization), my wife found old boxes of those National Geographic magazines with which she grew up, and for nostalgia’s sake, she brought them home and began poring through them again. Among the things she found was the below print ad from a 1971 issue that is not only hilariously ironic given the current obesity epidemic, but may even help to explain it, if in fact the attitude exhibited in the copy was pervasive at the time.


If you have a difficult time reading that, below the headline — If Sugar is So Fattening, How Come So Many Kids Are Thin? — the copy reads, “Next time you pass a bunch of kids, take a look. Kids eat and drink more things made with sugar than anybody. But how many fat kids do you see?”

Now, imagine the sugar industry posing that question today in an ad today. Looking at kids today may be the absolute strongest weigh-loss incentive imaginable, and perhaps the very best reason to decrease one’s sugar intake.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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