No more buffets? Treadmill meetings?

from the Society of General Internal Medicine annual meeting, Miami Beach

photo by Damian McNamara

photo by Damian McNamara

Anyone who is trying to change the U.S. obesity epidemic in terms of personal responsibility alone is going to lose, Dr. Robert H. Brook said.

We can train 16,000 bariatric surgeons or we can change our environment, he said. Most importantly, we have to confront the availability of food in our environment. “Every time you go past food your brain activates,” said Dr. Brook, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

There are fascinating studies of how we eat, Dr. Brook said. “We know if a secretary puts candy on their desk, everyone around them gains 5 pounds.”  Food is now everywhere, he said. “When you go to a hardware store to get a hammer, you walk out with a piece of candy.”

Research evaluating the role of the community food environment in obesity is still at an early stage, according to a recent review article.

What are his solutions? Dr. Brook, who is also vice president and director of RAND Health in Los Angeles, suggested some dramatic actions. “Why don’t we eliminate all food at RAND except for the cafeteria?” On a broader scale, why not eliminate all buffets? The United States needs public health interventions regarding food in the enviroment similar to efforts that reduced cigarette smoking, he said.

“We have to address the environment, or we are going to make a lot of surgeons wealthy.”

Not to leave out the physical activity component, Dr. Brook also proposed that instead of sit-down meetings, “all meetings should be conducted on treadmills.” If you set the treadmill to 1.8 miles per hour, “you don’t sweat, there is no body odor, and you can take notes.”

— Damian McNamara (@MedReporter on twitter)

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Filed under Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Surgery

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