Society Only in the USA - things that baffle non-Americans

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I have been re-reading Bill Bryson's Notes from a Big Country. Bill Bryson is an American (from Iowa) who moved to the UK. After 20 years of living in England with his English wife (and 4 kids) he moved with his family to New Hampshire for a few years. This book is a collection of articles he published in his weekly column in The Independent newspaper and is intended to explain how life is different in the US to a British audience. Here are a few excerpts that I found particularly noteworthy. The book was written in 1998, so some things may have changed.



  • American shops have the right to spy on people trying on clothes in cubicles and there are usually cameras in there to prevent thefts. (pp. 227-228)
  • Any American who has ever voted have their address and birth date as part of the public record, which is freely accessible to anyone. With these, anybody can purchase for as little as $10 almost an personal information about anyone, including medical records, driving records, court records, annual income, buying habits, phone number (even those unlisted in directories)... All this can be obtained in a few minutes from the Internet. In other words privacy doesn't exist in the USA. (pp.228-9)
  • On page 114, Bill Bryson complains about how TV programmes, including the news, are constantly interrupted by commercials in America. He calculated that in a 30-minute slot CNN showed 10 minutes of commercials, with intervals between commercials ranging from 2 to 7 minutes. He cites a study claiming that the average American is exposed to 1,000 TV commercials a week and that by the time an American turns 18 years old he or she will have seen 350,000 TV ads. And thinking that before Netflix and Internet news I was annoyed by having to endure 2 minutes of commercials every 30 minutes on TV here!
  • The US has the dubious distinction of being the most litigious nation on Earth. In the chapter 'So Sue Me' (pp. 248-251), Bryson explains that the US has 800,000 lawyers, more than the rest of the world combined! When he wrote that in 1998 the US had 300 lawyers per 100,000 people, against only 82 in Britain and 11 in Japan. I checked the latest stats and it is now 390 lawyers per 100,000 citizens. In Washington DC it is a jaw-dropping 8,032 - 8% of the population, or one for every 12 people you meet! The author then writes that 90 million lawsuits are filed in the US every year, which was then one for every 2 and a half people. In comparison, in the UK now has 1 lawsuit filed for every 100 people, in other words 40 times less per person, despite sharing a relatively similar legal culture based on common law. Japan only sees 1 lawsuit per 1000 people, proportionally 400x less than the US.

Other things I knew well, but that merit to be mentioned too:


  • Life expectancy in the USA was 78.9 years in 2018, lower than in Lebanon or Costa Rica, and about the same as Cuba or Estonia. Americans live on average 5.5 years less than Japanese people and about 4.5 years less than Italians, Spaniards, Swiss, Icelanders or Australians. But if we look at it at the state level, how long Americans live ranges from 74.8 years in West Virginia (slightly lower than Mexico, Vietnam or Armenia) to 82.3 years in Hawaii (like Canada). Shockingly 7 states had a lower life expectancy than China and 17 states lower than Turkey! Interestingly, people in the US territory of Guam in the Pacific, where the GDP per capita is considerably lower than in any of the 50 states, still managed to live longer than in 40 states.
  • The USA have the highest obesity rate in the world if we exclude tiny Pacific island nations and Kuwait. According to the CDC, as of 2017-18, 42.5% of American adults were obese. Approximately another 30% are overweight, meaning than just about a quarter of the US population has a healthy weight.
  • American universities are the most expensive in the world. According to this article, going to college in the US costs in average $8,200 per year at bachelor level in public institutions and $21,000 in private ones. In about half of EU countries, including Germany, Poland and Scandinavian countries, university is completely free. In countries like Denmark students even get money from the government to cover their housing and living expenses. In other EU countries costs are always under $2,000 per year, except the Netherlands ($2,400).
  • The US government is known for being very lax regarding regulations of dangerous chemicals. The EU's REACH regulates 20,000 chemicals and placed an outright ban on hundreds of them. For example, over 1300 substances are completely banned from use in cosmetics by the EU Cosmetics Regulation, but the FDA has banned only 11 of them! 33 chemicals considered Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or Toxic for reproduction (CMR) that can no longer be used in everyday clothing, textiles and footwear above a certain concentration limit in the EU, but are fine in the US. This page explains how 72 herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides which are banned in the EU are still widely used on crops in the U.S. food system. The list goes on. Many of the dangerous chemicals banned in Europe are also banned in other developed countries and even in Brazil and China, but not in the US. This may be another reason why life expectancy is so low in the US compared to its level of economic development.
 
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Here is another excerpt from a chapter called 'The Waste Generation' (p.280-284).

"One of the most arresting statistics that I have seen in a good while is that 5 per cent of all the energy used in the United States is consumed by computers that have been left on all night.

I can't confirm this personally, but I can certainly tell you that on numerous occasions I have glanced out of hotel room windows late at night, in a variety of American cities, and been struck by the fact that every light in every neighbouring office building is still on, and that computer screens are indeed flickering.

Why don't Americans turn these things off? For the same reason, I suppose, that so many people here let their car motors run when they pop into a shop, or leave lights blazing all over their house, or keep the central heating cranked up to a level that would scandalize a Finnish sauna house keeper - because, in short, electricity, petrol and other energy sources are so relatively cheap, and have been for so long that it doesn't occur to them to behave otherwise

Why, after all, go through the irksome annoyance of waiting twenty seconds for your computer to warm up each morning when you can have it at your immediate beck by leaving it on all night?

We are terribly - no, we are ludicrously - wasteful of resources in this country. The average American uses twice as much energy to get through life as the average European. With just 5 per cent of the world's population, we consume 20 per cent of its resources. These are not statistics to be proud of.
"

[...]

"Now, as you will have read, President Clinton wants another fifteen or sixteen years before rolling back house gas emissions to 1990 levels. It is hard to find anyone here who is actually much bothered about this Increasingly there is even a kind of antagonism to the idea of conservation, particularly if there is a cost attached. A recent survey of 27,000 people around the globe by a Canadian group called Environics International found that in virtually every advanced nation people were willing to sacrifice at least a small measure of economic growth if it meant cleaner air and a healthier environment. The only exception was the United States. It seems madness to think that people would rate a growing economy above an inhabitable earth, but there you are."

[...]

"It has been estimated that the nation as a whole wastes about $300 billion of energy a year. We are not talking here about energy that could be saved by investing in new technologies. We are talking about energy that could be saved just by switching things off or turning things down. According to US News & World Report, a weekly news magazine, the United States must maintain the equivalent of five nuclear power plants just to power equipment and appliances that are on but not being used - video recorders left in permanent standby mode, computers left on when people go to lunch or home for the night, all those mute, wall-mounted TVs that flicker unwatched in the corners of bars."



The sad thing is that this was written in 1998, i.e. 22 years ago or about a generation, and it still rings as true today as it did back then. It wasn't just a temporarily wasteful generation. Americans are still far more wasteful than anybody else on the planet and are already suffering from it. The USA is the only developed country, and indeed one of the few countries in the world (the other being warn-torn nations), where life expectancy has been going down over the last decade (see graph). The peak was in 2013 at 78.94 years. But even before that the growth curve had been slowing a lot comparing to other countries. Back in 1950, the American citizens could hope to live longer than practically anybody else. At the time Americans lived 5 years longer than Spaniards. Now it's the other way round. Life expectancy in the 50 states has even fallen behind even that of poorer overseas US territories like Puerto Rico or Guam, and behind developing countries like Chile or Costa Rica.

The average American has become so lazy that they take their car to move 200 yards instead of walking. Leaving appliances on all the time and the car's engine running while going to the bakery are merely symptoms of that attitude to life, a way of life that has made three quarters of Americans overweight. In just a few years half of the country will be obese from over-eating, physical laziness and excessive dependence on "convenience".
 
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Figure 2. Prevalence of self-reported obesity among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic adults, by state and territory, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2015–2017. Obesity was defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher based on self-reported weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters. Prevalence estimates reflect changes in BRFSS methods that started in 2011. These estimates should not be compared to prevalence estimates before 2011. Areas are indicated as having insufficient data if they had a sample size of less than 50 or a relative standard error (dividing the standard error by the prevalence) of 30% or more. [A tabular version of this figure is also available.]
 
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Figure 2. Prevalence of self-reported obesity among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic adults, by state and territory, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2015–2017. Obesity was defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher based on self-reported weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters. Prevalence estimates reflect changes in BRFSS methods that started in 2011. These estimates should not be compared to prevalence estimates before 2011. Areas are indicated as having insufficient data if they had a sample size of less than 50 or a relative standard error (dividing the standard error by the prevalence) of 30% or more. [A tabular version of this figure is also available.]

I think there is surely a difference among hispanic populations too. You could use Texas as a proxy for Mexicans, Florida as a proxy for Cubans, and Puerto Rico of course for Puerto Ricans.
 
Apart from the lack of exercice, another reason for the obesity crisis in the US is the food itself. Bill Bryson named a chapter 'Uniformly Awful' to talk about that particular problem. Here is what he says on page 307:

"It is certainly true that an awful lot of American foodstuffs - white bread, most domestic cheeses, nearly all convenience foods, the bulk of beers, a good deal of the coffee - are nothing like as robust and flavourful and varied as their counterparts almost anywhere in Europe, Britain included. It's an odd thing in a country that loves to eat, but there you are.

I put it down to two things. The first is cost. Everything in America is predicated on cost, far more than in other countries. If price is a factor between competing businesses (and it always is), then the cheaper will inevitably drive out the costlier, and this seldom leads to improved quality. Actually, it never leads to improved quality.)"

He then goes on explaining how local restaurants keep closing and being replaced by nationwide chains like Taco Bells, KFCs, McDonald's or Starbucks, where food is standardised and unexceptional.

There is a clear link between fast food consumption and obesity and poor health. Within the US, the most obese states are those with the shortest life expectancy and are also those with the most fast food chains per capita. Those include Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia (source).

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It's also true at the city level. Cities with fewer fast food chains tend to be healthier. New York, Boston, San Francisco and LA are among the places with the least fast food restaurants per capita in the US.

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This page from The Economist compares the national density of the top five American fast food chains around the world. The US comes on top with 224 fast-food outlets per million people, not far ahead of Canada (200), but way ahead of the rest of the world. In Europe, the UK and Ireland have the most fast food outlets with 84 and 79 per million people respectively. In western continental Europe it is much lower, and unsurprisingly the two countries with the highest life expectancy, Italy and Spain, have the least fast food outlets per million inhabitants (8.2 and 14.7 respectively). Most of other European countries are somewhere 15 and 40. But that's only for these 5 big chains. There are innumerable fast food chains in the US that never made their way into Europe. Most Europeans have never heard of Chick-fil-A, Wendy's, Dunkin', Chipotle, Sonic Drive-In, Arby's, Little Caesars, Panda Express, Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, Papa John's, Whataburger, Zaxby's, Culver's, Bojangles, Del Taco, and countless other features of the American "culinary" scene.

So when Italy has 8.2 fast-food outlets per million people among the 5 big chains, that's about the total of any fast-food outlet in Italy. If we add all the other chains, Alabama has 630 fast-food outlets per million people (77 times more per capita). That's part of the reason why people in Alabama can hope to live for 75.4 years, against 83.6 years for Italians.
 
According to the CDC, most of obesity in the Unites States is likely linked to social and economic situation of racial and ethnic minorities:

https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2019/18_0579.htm#:~:text=Combined%20data%20for%202015%20through,Hispanic%20white%20adults%20(28.6%25).
.

It's true that Blacks and Hispanics suffer more from obesity than Whites, but in the Midwest and Deep South Whites have 30-35% of obesity, which is still substantial. New York, New England and California have less obesity and, as I explained above, also less fast food outlets per capita.
 
It's true that Blacks and Hispanics suffer more from obesity than Whites, but in the Midwest and Deep South Whites have 30-35% of obesity, which is still substantial. New York, New England and California have less obesity and, as I explained above, also less fast food outlets per capita.

Anecdotally, there is also a big fitness sub-culture among well-to-do professionals living in urban areas.
 
Anecdotally, there is also a big fitness sub-culture among well-to-do professionals living in urban areas.

I'm really a bit surprised this author didn't dive deeper into the statistics, especially given he's American and should know the various factors at play.

In most statistical analyses done world wide, Mexicans are extremely obese, and there are a lot of Mexican Americans whose stats are included in those for the U.S; they're now a big percentage of our population. (We shouldn't forget that most Mexicans are about 50% Native American, and Native Americans notoriously have real problems with high carbohydrate diets.) Blacks also are statistically pretty obese if there's not a famine going on. So, genetics is a factor, as well as diet, and the fact we do very little walking.
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Having lived in the UK for so long this guy also should know how obese Brits are, and that applies to Australians and New Zealanders as well. So, those obese genes seem to be found in people from the British Isles as well.

If you look at the most obese states you'll see they are mostly in the south and that is the area with the highest percentage of British ancestry, and some states are half black as well. Then you have Texas, which used to be British in ancestry (spillover from the South), and is now hugely Mexican. Same goes for New Mexico. The second "fattest area" is the Midwest which is largely Germanic in ancestry.

The American diet also largely comes from Britain and the Germanic countries. A lot of "American" food, barring later imports like Mexican food and Italian food, is just British and German food: meat (lots of pork as well as beef) and potato heavy, not a lot of vegetables, and a lot of beer and desserts. All you need to do is look at the recipes of someone like Paula Deen or "Pioneer Woman", and the local recipe books from any woman's club across the country. Heck, a Thanksgiving Meal is home cooked but the calorie count is astronomical and it's all "American" food. I mean, in addition to the turkey you have "dressing" (bread, a type of mire-poix and herbs and tons of butter), mashed potatoes (tons of butter), sweet potatoes (tons of butter and sometimes sugar), corn, with butter, and on and on. The only traditional green vegetable shows up in green been casserole where the green beans are drowned in white sauce full of cream and butter. Oh, and dessert is either pumpkin pie full of cream and eggs) or, the most highly caloric of pies, pecan pie from the south.

Fast food restaurants are another separate factor.

In terms of fast food restaurants, one of these charts says Mississippi doesn't have that many fast food restaurants, but the people are very obese there.

There's never one factor for any result, imo. Plus, while I can't stand the food from fast food chains, and never order it, a lot of people really like it, and it's certainly convenient and cheap. The latter is really important if you're working class or on benefits. Blacks, from what I can remember, have a higher consumption of fast foods. That's a huge factor, since whites are barely 50% of the population anymore, and in southern states with high obesity rates half the population is black.

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When the chains open stores abroad, they do very well in a lot of countries, although there are adaptions in countries like France, although not so much in Germany from what I can remember. Fat, salt and sugar taste good and many people aren't that discerning, I guess. Maybe the countries where they have a lot of success don't have a particularly good native cuisine. I saw a youtube series done by young Irish people and they absolutely adore American fast food. In one episode they relayed that when the first Krispy Creme opened in Ireland, people waited in line overnight. I can tell you that British tourists to the U.S. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE fast food restaurants and American chain restaurants. At least that's what my renters for my Florida properties always told me, and especially for their children.
 
As for voting records being on file, I thought the information was not centralized, remaining in local voting districts or at least within the states, and that's why there was so much concern about mail in voting. Also, on the continent doesn't everybody have to carry a national identity card, and isn't it true that every time you move you have to register your new address within a certain number of days? Also, since medical is nationalized isn't all your information on your national health card?

We're pikers in terms of keeping track of our people. You can totally go underground in this country very easily.
 
Anecdotally, there is also a big fitness sub-culture among well-to-do professionals living in urban areas.

I don't doubt it. Wealthier Americans have the lowest obesity rates. They also tend to watch more what they eat (or at least eat less junk food because they can afford better quality) and are more conscious about their health in general. Nonetheless not everyone responds to physical exercice in the same way. 23andMe had a report showing that carrying an allele was associated with not losing much weight while exercising. The CDC ranked U.S. states by how much people exercised and the correlation with obesity is not so high. People in states like Oregon, Texas and Illinois exercice quite a lot, but have high obesity rates, while people in Montana, Florida and North Carolina don't exercice much but are thinner. The correlation between obesity and fast food consumption seems tighter.

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As for voting records being on file, I thought the information was not centralized, remaining in local voting districts or at least within the states, and that's why there was so much concern about mail in voting. Also, on the continent doesn't everybody have to carry a national identity card, and isn't it true that every time you move you have to register your new address within a certain number of days? Also, since medical is nationalized isn't all your information on your national health card?

We're pikers in terms of keeping track of our people. You can totally go underground in this country very easily.

Most EU countries have compulsory ID cards, but these are secured ship cards (except in France, which always lags behind when it comes to technology. They still use cheques to pay in the digital age!). Speaking about Belgium, one's address is not written on it and is only available to the government. The ID card can be used by pharmacies to obtain information about one's health insurance and obtain immediate refund on prescription medicine. Note that health insurance in Belgium is mutualised and therefore private, yet state-subsidised and not-for-profit, which is the best combination. Each insured person is co-owner of the mutualised insurance fund. There cannot be discrimination and indeed they never ask for one's medical record (unlike life insurance). There is no centralised medical record, so if I go to a new doctor, even by reading my electronic ID card, all they will get is my name, birth date and social security number. It's bit annoying because it means people have to explain their medical history all over again when they change doctor. But it's the price to pay for privacy.

It's not just medical records that are out of reach to practically anyone. In most EU countries there is no publicly accessible driving records, court records, annual income, data on buying habits, etc. Everything is kept private. In fact in Belgium doesn't even have points on driver's licences to list previous infractions (although it may change soon). In comparison America feels like the Wild West.

ID cards provide much higher security against identity theft than the American system. You can't open a bank account, buy a house, get insurance, or almost anything else without a (PIN protected) eID card.
 
In another chapter Bill Bryson tells about his terrible experience with the quality of service of airlines in the US. Looking at international ratings for both airlines and airports, it does look like the US does much worse than the rest of the developed world in that regard.

The US does not have any 5-star rated airline, and only Southwest Airlines is rated 4 stars. All the others are rated 3 stars. Skytrax gave 5 star to 10 airlines, and all are East Asian, except Lufthansa (Germany) and Qatar Airways. There are 61 4-star airlines worldwide, including 19 from Europe, 3 from the former USSR, 3 from Canada, 5 from Africa, 4 from the Middle East, 4 from China/Taiwan, and 22 left from other Asian countries.

Skytrax rated 522 airports worldwide and granted 5 stars to 13 airports, all in Europe and Asia apart from one in Ecuador. None are in North America. 68 airports obtained 4 stars, but only 5 are in the USA (as much as Canada) and two are in Houston. 26 European airports got 4 stars. Once again, almost all US airports obtained only 3 stars.
 
Yes, the maps tell it all: areas of biggest concern are the south and the midwest. Bottom line for me: genes, genes, genes (both black and British/Germanic it appears, and some Mexican), diets brought to the US from those countries, and the fact that for poorer people, fast food eating is cheaper than buying groceries and cooking. Fast food eating is only one factor, accounting for about 15% of all calories even for 20-39 year old non-black Americans. Lack of exercise is also another factor, of course.

As for access to identity information, it's precisely the government knowing every thing about me which I would most fear, and which a lot of Americans fear, although I do think that voting records should go into one big centralized program so we know there's not all this double voting going on. It would restore confidence in the system.
 
I recall from the post I made in the Coronavirus thread, that African-Americans actually get less physical activity than white Americans, according to the CDC.

Here was the source, correction it was the HHS:

Obesity and African Americans


  • African American women have the highest rates of obesity or being overweight compared to other groups in the United States. About 4 out of 5 African American women are overweight or obese.
  • In 2018, non-Hispanic blacks were 1.3 times more likely to be obese as compared to non-Hispanic whites.
  • In 2018, African American women were 50 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white women.
  • From 2013-2016, non-Hispanic black females were 2.3 times more likely to be overweight as compared to non-Hispanic white females.
  • People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, diabetes and LDL cholesterol – all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.1
  • In 2018, African Americans were 20 percent less likely to engage in active physical activity as compared to non-Hispanic whites.
https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=25
 
Actually, according to the CDC, non-Hispanic whites have an obesity rate of 23.7%.
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mm...attern was consistent across most U.S. states.

Now, that's not good, but it's about the level of Spain, Poland, Russia and Norway etc. according to this analysis done in 2020
Germany is at 22.30. There are very few countries in Europe at 20% and below, which is still a bad number.
https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/obesity-rates-by-country

I would say it's more a problem of western industrialized nations, and in the U.S. varies wildly by ethnicity and area.
 
Actually, according to the CDC, non-Hispanic whites have an obesity rate of 23.7%.
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mm...attern was consistent across most U.S. states.

Now, that's not good, but it's about the level of Spain, Poland, Russia and Norway etc. according to this analysis done in 2020
Germany is at 22.30. There are very few countries in Europe at 20% and below, which is still a bad number.
https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/obesity-rates-by-country

I would say it's more a problem of western industrialized nations, and in the U.S. varies wildly by ethnicity and area.

That's because you select only non-Hispanic Whites in the US and compare to the whole population of other countries.

Almost everywhere in developed countries it is the poor who suffer the most from obesity, and that means above all immigrants in Europe. From of the people who look fat in the street here are immigrants from Morocco, Sub-Saharan Africa and to some extent also South America (especially women). What's interesting is that Moroccan immigrants used to be thin, but obesity has become quite prevalent among the younger generations of 3rd or 4th generation migrants, probably due to the increase switch in diet from their traditional cuisine to fast food joints in city centres. There are even Halal burger chains catering for that segment of the population now.

In most of Western Europe, there is something like 20-25% of people of immigrant origin in the last few generations. In the UK, about 15% of the population is foreign born. If you included 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation migrants, notably from South Asia and the Caribbean, that's about 25% of the population who is of non British stock. Statistics on obesity by racial groups in Britain showed that Black people were the most likely to be overweight or obese (73% of them), like in the US.

A study of child obesity in Britain highlighted the considerably higher prevalence of obesity among (South) Asians and Blacks compared to Whites, regardless of the socio-economic status.

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It's a complicated topic. France, with all its immigrants, doesn't score all that badly. Latvia and Czech, which I'm sure have few such immigrants, and few fast food outlets, score worse.

Then there's Australia and New Zealand, whose scores are worse yet, and who used to severely restrict "non-white" immigration.

I know a low of countries don't like to break the population up by "race" I wonder if the "white" population in any of these European countries is only 60.7%, as it is in the U.S. (non-Hispanic white people).

As I said, I think it's a multi-faceted problem. Getting 10% of your calories from fast food places may not be great, but genetics is also a big factor. I just saw scores for Polynesians, for example, who are over 50% obese.
 
It's a complicated topic. France, with all its immigrants, doesn't score all that badly. Latvia and Czech, which I'm sure have few such immigrants, and few fast food outlets, score worse.

Then there's Australia and New Zealand, whose scores are worse yet, and who used to severely restrict "non-white" immigration.

I know a low of countries don't like to break the population up by "race" I wonder if the "white" population in any of these European countries is only 60.7%, as it is in the U.S. (non-Hispanic white people).

As I said, I think it's a multi-faceted problem. Getting 10% of your calories from fast food places may not be great, but genetics is also a big factor. I just saw scores for Polynesians, for example, who are over 50% obese.

Generally speaking, populations that did not get most of their calories from cereals before the European colonisation are more prone to obesity when they adopt the modern Western diet. That is the case for Pacific islanders (who traditionally ate almost exclusively fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits), Native Americans (a bit less Andeans and Mexicans, but not that much), and some African populations.

Hispanic is a misleading term because it can apply equally to people are mostly of Native American ancestry, to others who are mostly of European (Spanish, Portuguese) ancestry, and yet others with mixed ancestry.

In the southern USA, many peopled classified as non-Hispanic White have a few per cents of Native American (usually Cherokee) or Black African ancestry. That can be up to 15-20% and not be visible physically. The actual percentage doesn't matter. What they should check is which version of genes processing carbohydrates they have (it may not be simply alleles, but the number of copies of some genes, which is not yet tested by companies like 23andMe).

One of the main reasons of obesity in Europe is alcohol consumption, which is way higher than in the US. Italy has the lowest alcohol consumption and one of the lowest obesity rate. The Irish, British, Czechs, Latvians, etc. are all well known for heavy drinking, especially men. Another factor is greasy food, especially in northern, central and eastern Europe. That is not necessarily fast food. Just look at traditional German and Polish meat dishes.
 

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