Posted on Apr 09, 2018, 1 a.m.
The 1989 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement has been found by researchers in a new study to be associated with increased caloric availability in Canada. Findings suggest rise in caloric intake and obesity in Canada since the 1990’s can be partially attributed to the close trade and investment arrangements with the USA, as published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Escalating prevalence globally of overweight individuals and obesity or “globesity” is now described often as a pandemic. Globalization via free trade agreements is often implicated in the globesity pandemic because of the role it has in spreading high calorie diets that are rich in sugar, fat, and salt through the reduction of trade barriers such as tariffs in the food and beverage sectors.
Concerns revolve on how FTAs increase population exposure to unhealthy, high calorie diets with few studies available isolating their impact from other factors, and none examining effects on caloric intake despite its role in causing obesity. This study set out to address these limitations by analyzing the circumstances surrounding implementation of the CUSFTA.
Natural experiment designs were used along with analyzing data from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Office to evaluate the impact of the FTA on caloric availability in Canada. Researchers found that the CUSFTA was indeed associated with increased caloric availability of an intake of about 170 kilocalories per person each day in Canada, this rise in calorie availability in Canada exceeded any other country by far.
Researchers used sophisticated models to show that this caloric intake rise can contribute to weight gain between 2.0-12.2 kg for women and 1.8-9.3 kg for men aged 40 depending on physical activity levels and extent to which availability affects intake. The rise also coincided with an $1.82US billion increase in USA investment within the Canadian food and beverage industry and an $5.26US billion rise in food and beverage imports from the USA.
US Free Trade Agreements are especially likely to be guilty of encouraging elevated caloric intake due to highly competitive processed food and beverage industries and associations with obesogenic environments which pertain to USA processed food and caloric beverages playing a huge role in increasing caloric intakes, as they are calorie dense, leading to consumption of too many calories unknowingly, which are highly palatable encouraging more and continued consumption, results may vary according to the partnered country.
Analysis is relevant as many governments are seeking to implement FTAs with the USA, including the British government which is seeking one as part of its post Brexit growth strategy. Findings suggest that US FTAs can have a negative impact on the general population diet and obesity when implemented in countries where food supply is already adequate to meet the country’s food demands, with important implications for policy, strengthening the quality of evidence that is used to show potentially detrimental impacts of US FTAs on diets, showing how it is a structural driver of behaviors, highlighting need to make greater coherence between nutrition and FTAs if governments want to minimize possible deleterious impacts on population health and maximizes health benefits without adding to obesogenic conditions contributing to globesity.
Materials provided by Elsevier.
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Pepita Barlow, Martin McKee, David Stuckler. The Impact of U.S. Free Trade Agreements on Calorie Availability and Obesity: A Natural Experiment in Canada. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.02.010