Chapter 12: Poverty & Obesity

Aug 30, 2019


Check out a replay of the Facebook LIVE discussion about this chapter HERE

You Will Learn

  • Poverty and obesity stats. 
  • Why the government’s attempts to make food more affordable lead to an obesity epidemic. 
  • Other factors besides food that may increase the connection between poverty and obesity. 


About Dr. Fung, Author of The Obesity Code and The Diabetes Code

Dr. Jason Fung is a medical doctor, nephrologist by trade, who specializes in kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. He acknowledged that traditional medicine wastes time and resources attempting to treat symptoms of disease, rather than the cause of disease. 

You can purchase The Obesity Code book HERE


Overview of the Book

Here is the outline of the book. Today I’m covering Chapter 12 in Part 4. 

Part 1: “The Epidemic,” explores the timeline of the obesity epidemic and the contribution of the patient’s family history. It highlights the underlying causes of obesity. 

Part 2: “The Calorie Deception,” reviews the current caloric theory in depth and highlights the shortcomings of the current understanding of obesity. 

Part 3: “A New Model of Obesity,” describes how hormones are involved in the development of obesity. These chapters explain the central role of insulin in regulating body weight and describe the vitally important role of insulin resistance. 

Part 4: “The Social Phenomenon of Obesity,” dives into childhood obesity and why obesity is associated with poverty. 

Part 5: “What’s Wrong with Our Diet?,” explores the role of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, the three macronutrients, in weight gain. In addition, it examines one of the main culprits in weight gain - fructose - and the effects of artificial sweeteners. 

Part 6: “The Solution,” provides guidelines for lasting treatment of obesity by addressing the hormonal imbalance of high blood insulin through proper nutrition, sleep, and stress management. 


Poverty & Obesity Stats

There is a strong correlation between poverty and obesity. On page 136, Dr. Fung states in this Chapter that Mississippi is the poorest state in our country, and also has the highest rate of obesity at 35.4 percent. 

Here is a link to eye-opening maps that show the progression of obesity in our country. You can see that in the south rates of obesity are higher. Other maps on this site also show rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is not a coincidence that the states with the highest rates of obesity also have the highest rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 


Why is Obesity More Common with Poverty?

Dr. Fung reviews several theories in this chapter. I’ll skip straight to the point and tell you Dr. Fung believes it is refined carbohydrates. 

When the government tried to make food more affordable by subsidizing farmers, the bottom of the food pyramid was breads, grains, pasta, and cereals. So the government focused their money on these food groups. “Federal subsidies encourage the cultivation of large amounts of corn and wheat, which are processed into many foods. These foods, in turn, become far more affordable, which encourages their consumption. Large-scale consumption of highly processed carbohydrates leads to obesity. More tax dollars are then needed to support anti-obesity programs. Even more dollars are needed for medical treatment of obesity-related problems.”

Native Americans did not used to have a problem with diabetes and obesity, but as I witnessed first-hand when we visited the Havasupai Falls in the Grand Canyon, I was so surprised that many of the Native Americans were very overweight. Upon reflection I realized that the foods they had readily available were all things that were cheap, with a long self-live because they had to helicopter out of the canyon to get more food. Candy, pop, chips, and other items were a mainstay in their diets. 

Think about what food you may donate to a local pantry. Are you going to buy the canned meat, peanut butter, and vegetables? Or are you more inclined to donate the cheaper mac n’ cheese, pasta, bars, etc. Many people dealing with poverty simply cannot afford to buy healthier options. 


Other Factors Besides Food That May Increase the Connection Between Poverty and Obesity

Dr. Fung didn’t mention this in his book but I also think that people who are struggling with poverty may also have increased stress and some sleep problems because of this stress. I’ve already covered the hormonal changes that increase blood sugar and thus insulin when your body is stressed and sleep deprived. 

So while I think refined carbohydrate foods are a big problem, remember they are not the ONLY thing that contributes to developing obesity. We must think in broader terms of insulin resistance.

Bottom Line

  1. There is a strong correlation between poverty and obesity. 
  2. One big reason people who are struggling with poverty are at a higher risk of developing obesity is because highly refined and processed carbohydrate foods are cheap and have a long shelf life. 
  3. Other factors including stress and sleep may increase this risk. 



1. Chapter 12. (2016). In J. Fung, The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss. Vancouver: Greystone Books.

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