Monday, August 25, 2003

If you want to stay slim, eat less.

--"If food is moderately palatable, people tend to consume what is put in front of them, and generally consume more when offered more food," said Paul Rozin, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. "Much discussion of the obesity epidemic in the US has focused on personal willpower, but our study shows that the environment also plays an important role, and that people may be satisfied even if served less than they would normally eat."--

This ties in neatly with my comments on economics and normative behavior. Exchange a given assumption of gluttony for one of greed, then compare mainstream economists with the researchers who:

"... have offered a confusing range of speculation over the years. There might be something specially healthy about goose fat, one group argued. Alcohol, olive oil and salad were all important in a heart-smart diet, said another. Red wine itself might explain the difference, said a third."

Economists are like people who spend their time creating new diets, trying to find ways to explain things using the only language they know. Using more or less fat is a function of food, or food studies(!), as such; eating less, is a function of social behavior. The differences between the European and American economies are societal, not merely economic. Extra-economic factors had everything to do with the post war boom in Germany and the success of the planned economy in Japan, and extra-economic factors have everything to do with their decline. But again, those studies will have to be done by anthropolgists helped by number crunchers, not the other way around.

It has also been argued that being actively engaged with nuances of taste also teaches people to eat less: the better the food the less you eat of it. But this also doubles as an argument for uneconomic behavior. How about an economic theory begins with the teaching of culinary esthetics and the principle of a three hour lunch?

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