Why are people getting fatter in the United States and beyond? Mainstream explanations argue that people simply eat too much "energy-dense" food while exercising too little. By swapping the chips and sodas for fruits and vegetables and exercising more, the problem would be solved. By contrast, The Neoliberal Diet argues that increased obesity does not result merely from individual food and lifestyle choices. Since the 1980s, the neoliberal turn in policy and practice has promoted trade liberalization and retrenchment of the welfare regime, along with continued agricultural subsidies in rich countries. Neoliberal regulation has enabled agribusiness multinationals to thrive by selling highly processed foods loaded with refined flour and sugars--a diet that originated in the United States--as well as meat. Drawing on extensive empirical data, Gerardo Otero identifies the socioeconomic and political forces that created this diet, which has been exported around the globe, often at the expense of people's health.
Otero shows how state-level actions, particularly subsidies for big farms and agribusiness, have ensured the dominance of processed foods and made healthful fresh foods inaccessible to many. Comparing agrifood performance across several nations, including the NAFTA region, and correlating food access to class inequality, he convincingly demonstrates the structural character of food production and the effect of inequality on individual food choices. Resolving the global obesity crisis, Otero concludes, lies not in blaming individuals but in creating state-level programs to reduce inequality and make healthier food accessible to all.