What will it take to reduce obesity rates?

We've witnessed a lot of positive change in the past 30 to 40 years.  More convenient transportation, more air conditioning, less strenuous jobs, less smoking, less expensive food, etc., etc.  All of those changes are cause for celebration.  They are, however, also all factors that likely contributed to rising rates of obesity we've witnessed over the past several decades.

Here's what I had to say about it in the Food Police

We can’t disentangle all the bad stuff we don’t like about obesity with all the other good things we enjoy like driving, eating snacks, cooking more quickly, and having less strenuous jobs. Yes, we can have less obesity but at the cost of other things we enjoy.

When you hear we need a fundamental change to get our waistlines back down to where they were three decades ago, beware that it might take a world that looks like it did three decades ago. I for one am not willing to give up power steering, microwaves, and inexpensive take-out even if my pants now fit a little more snugly.

Now comes this paper from Åsa Ljungvall at Lund University in Sweden providing some further empirical evidence for this phenomenon:

The empirical analysis is based on a panel of 31 high-income countries and data for the period 1983 to 2008. It finds a positive and statistically significant relationship between the level of economic freedom and both the level of, and five-year change in, BMI. Decomposing the freedom index into sub-indices measuring economic freedom in five sub-areas (government, legal structure, sound money, trade, and regulations) shows that freedom in the regulations dimension is the most consistent contributor to this result.

It's tough to know whether this is causation or just correlation, but I do think it represents the tough trade-offs we face in life.  We could all be a bit thinner if we lived in North Korea.  I doubt many of us would be willing to trade our freedom just to drop a few pounds.