The Paradoxical Co-Existence of Malnourishment & Obesity

Rachel Mahoney

In his piece Culture and the Evolution of Obesity, Professor Peter J. Brown of Emory University’s Global Health Institute explores the social factors that contribute to dangerous diets — specifically obesity.  Brown rejects the traditional view that human predisposition to obesity and fatness are situated solely within the context of biological evolution, in favor of the notion that “the etiology of obesity must account for the social distribution of the condition with regard to gender, ethnicity, social class, and economic modernization … this distribution, which has changed throughout history, undoubtedly involves cultural factors” (Brown 1991: 31).  Brown argues that obesity and hunger are situated instead in a dynamic landscape of networks, institutions, cultural beliefs, and biological evolution, which all fuel the startling rate of obesity in both developed and developing regionsof the globe.

Most countries have extreme numbers of simultaneous underweight and overweight BMIs


One thought on “The Paradoxical Co-Existence of Malnourishment & Obesity

  1. The social factors that lead to obesity have also been explored by scientists studying the Havasupai Tribe who reside in the Grand Canyon. Research has shown genetic links to obesity and metabolic rates, however, it is currently believed that these factors become more dangerous when compounded by social factors such as diet and exercise. As Brown’s research states, it seems logical to consider a “dynamic landscape of of networks” when studying dietary health because how we care for our bodies has deep cultural connections.

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