Fast-food imperialism

You knew this was true. You just needed proof.

Researchers compared the number of fast-food restaurants per-capita to the obesity rate in 26 wealthy nations. They used Subway as a proxy, given that it had the most outlets worldwide in 2010.

The U.S. and Canada led the way with 7.52 and 7.43 outlets per 100,000 people respectively. About 32 percent of Americans and about 23 percent of Canadians are obese. Conversely, Japan and Norway had .13 and .19 outlets per 100,000 and obesity rates of about 3 and 6 percent respectively.

Researchers emphasized it was a correlation, not a causation.

The New York Times published an excellent piece in 2008 about how fast-food joints, pizza places and ice cream parlors have overtaken the birthplace of the Mediterranean diet in Greece.  Two-thirds of the children and three-quarters of the adults there are overweight or obese.

Greece, Italy, Spain and Morocco asked Unesco to designate the diet as an “intangible piece of cultural heritage,” which speaks to its historical importance and that it now appears to be a thing of the past in that region.

It is no coincidence that worldwide fast-food expansion coincided with the world’s expanding obesity rate. Activists used to complain about U.S. “cultural imperialism,” primarily referring to the ubiquity of U.S. movies and television shows. This kind of imperialism has caused far more damage.