Obesity and the Covid-19 Pandemic: The Neoliberal Diet as Root Cause

Gerardo Otero Headshot

Gerardo Otero

"Obesity and the Covid-19 Pandemic: The Neoliberal Diet as Root Cause"

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 is making it clear that the most vulnerable to dying from this pandemic in North America are those people with “co-morbidities” such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and other maladies exacerbated by being overweight or obese (Stokes, et al. 2020). Otero argues that the root cause of this co-morbidity is what he terms “the neoliberal diet” (Otero 2018). This energy-dense, industrial, ultra-processed and cheap diet, popularly known as junk food, is directly or indirectly implicated in making working class humans vulnerable. After providing an overview of the neoliberal diet, he will offer a crossnational comparison of how income inequality accounts for the working classes’ greater risk of exposure to the neoliberal diet in Mexico and the United States to show that eating energy-dense food is much less about individual choice than about having more or less economic access to healthy and nutritious food. Otero will conclude by emphasizing the causal relation between the neoliberal diet and COVID-19 vulnerabilities, and point to state action to overcome this.


About the Speaker

Gerardo Otero, a sociologist and political economist, is professor of international studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. His work is about political economy of agriculture and food, civil society and the state in the Americas. He has published over 100 scholarly articles, chapters and books. He is the author of Farewell to the Peasantry? Political Class Formation in Rural Mexico (Westivew Press 1999, re-issued by Routledge in 2018). His latest monograph is: The Neoliberal Diet: Healthy Profits, Unhealthy People (University of Texas Press 2018). E-mail: otero@sfu.ca. Much of his work is available at: http://www.sfu.ca/people/otero.html.


Obesity and the Covid-19 Pandemic: The Neoliberal Diet as Root Cause Video


9:30 a.m. Nov. 5, 2020


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