In the 19th century, when there were no controls on the quality of drinking water, infectious disease was a major cause of death. Once standards were established, the number of these fatalities plummeted. Similarly, if Americans did not live in a world filled with buffets, cheap fast food, soft drinks with corn syrup, and too many foods with excess fat, salt and sugar, the incidence of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes probably would plummet. Education can help, but what's really needed is regulation — for example, limits on marketing that caters to our addiction to sugar and fat.
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Cohen is a senior natural scientist at the Rand Corp. and the author of the forthcoming book "A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic and How We Can End It." Author's email: firstname.lastname@example.org.