Thursday, October 16, 2003
Marginal Revolution has a post on corn as the root cause of our current epidemic. The NYT article gives a pretty good background. David M. Cutler, Edward L. Glaeser and Jesse M. Shapiro have looked at this issue and found that most of the recent increase in waist lines can be attributed to an increase in the number of meals eaten, largely due to improvements in technology. It only takes 150 additional calories a day for a 155 lb male to add 10 lbs to his steady state weight. That's not a lot. Awhile back Hal Varian cited other research by Darius Lakdawalla and Tomas Philipson who found most (60%) of the increase can be attributed to our more sedentary lifestyle with the remaining being explained by the increased supply of food. Slightly different conclusions, but very interesting. They motivated me to cut out soda for a bit to see if I could lose weight. The trouble is if you don't count your calories, you tend to replace soda with something else, resulting in the same amount as when I was drinking soda. That's a bad diet. Not only am I not losing weight, I'm not even maximizing my own utility, because I'm consuming my second choice not my first. The solution is to count calories, and do so religiously. If you're interested here is a website that helps calculate BMI, and list suggestion for different calories diets. They even note that underreporting of caloric intake is generally estimated to be between 400 and 900 calories a day, so you should account for that as well. Time to go have some Ben and Jerry's.