Reframing the Causes and Solutions to Obesity

Alongside smoking and alcohol use, obesity is not only a leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States – it also puts a heavy financial burden on the country’s healthcare system. Despite commonly held assumptions that obesity is the direct result of inactivity, laziness, or poor food choices, there is no simple solution to this complex public health threat. This November, four speakers will share their insights into the root causes of obesity, the surprising ways it can impact health, and steps we can take to combat it.

TEDMED 2015 Breaking Through, Food FixSugar scientist Laura Schmidt says that for many Americans, eating less sugar isn’t a realistic option because – slyly operating under 60 different “aliases,” it is hidden in 74% of processed foods and drinks. This leaves the average American unaware of eating three times more sugar each day than is considered safe. “Sugar isn’t just making us fat. It’s making us sick,” Laura contends.

Louise Greenspan TEDMED 2015 Breaking ThroughPediatric endocrinologist Louise Greenspan has done extensive research into what she calls “the new puberty” – the modern phenomenon of early puberty, an increasingly prevalent trend doctors are seeing in young girls. What is the underlying cause? Louise shares that, “unfortunately, few people in the general public are receiving the right information or targeting the real culprit: obesity.” According to Louise, scientific data clearly shows that girls who are overweight often experience early puberty – a fact that is not well known, even amongst health care professionals.

What are some solutions?

TEDMED 2015 Breaking Through, Food FixChef Bryant Terry is a proponent of returning to our roots and “putting the culture back into agriculture.” A food activist, Bryant is passionate about looking at the real root of the obesity health crisis – lack of accessibility to healthful foods. Bryant attributes obesity to “the industrialized food system over the past 50-60 years that has made it easier for people to eat cheap meat, to over-consume fast food, and processed food and sugary beverages.” Also, he shares that “there are people who have lots of disposable income and who grew up with these traditions, who know what farm-fresh food is, but think that – if you have money and are modern – you shop in the supermarket. Growing food? They’ll say, ‘That’s what country folk do.’”


TEDMED 2015 Breaking Through, Mind MattersMerely telling people to exercise more and pay closer attention to food labels won’t go far in solving the obesity epidemic, says Judson Brewer; in fact, this approach can backfire. Judson will share his breakthrough research on how mindfulness can quell cravings. He’ll explain how it’s being used as a novel treatment for addictions, including eating disorders.