Given the large element of chance determining the constancy of food supplies, many traditional societies have regarded famine as an event sent by God to punish the wicked (Clarkson and Crawford 2001). More recently, a view has emerged that the overcoming of food scarcity is an evolutionary marker of the human condition, revealing tensions between food availability, affordability, and inequality. For most of human history, obesity has been an irrelevance, being a physiological characteristic limited to the wealthy. The fact that a situation of mass population overweight, if not clinical obesity, has now achieved normalcy in many societies raises questions not only for public health but also for contemporary culture.

The scientific debate around food availability was instigated in the late-eighteenth century by British political economist ...

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