Technology has had a profound effect on our quality of life- computers have aided our quality of work, whilst the internet has meant that we can access information at the click of a button. The use of smartphones have allowed us to communicate with friends or colleagues thousands of miles away; whilst allowing us to access our social media accounts. Indeed, alongside the smartphone and computer, most British households contain a television set...or several! 

Whilst this has arguably improved our quality of life, through keeping us updated with news, social media, and keeping on top or work projects; has it led to us being more sedentary? Are we spending more time glued to a screen than being active, or engaging with actual people? 

There is evidence to suggest that that increased exposure to artificial light through computers and televisions induce sedentary behaviour- children spend less time playing outdoors, adults spend an evening slumped in front of a television after a mental draining day, and we tend to snack more whilst viewing a screen; and even eat our meals in front of a box rather than at a table. 

This goes in tandem with more sedentary lifestyles. The use of cars, or public transport to access our work place, in combination with sedentary jobs. Many of us sit in an office for extended periods of time, finish our jobs to sit on a train, then venture home to sit on a sofa. 

Alas, we have not even mentioned a change in dietary habits. Thousands of years ago we would have ventured into the wild to forage for food, fishing in lakes, climbing up mountains, and running after buffalo; long before the birth of a supermarket- the dawn of a new era.

The fundamental change in eating behaviours has been a change for the better in some respects (hence the term 'convenience foods')- we no longer need to climb a mountain, wrestle a pig, jump over gorges, or swim in a freezing cold river to spear a wild salmon. We can remove an item from a supermarket fridge or shelf. However, this has led to an abundance of 'processed' foods.

These 'processed' foods often contain added sugars, salt, hydrogenated oils, or ingredients which we have never heard of to make foods more palatable, addictive, and last longer. Examples include some breakfast cereals- many contain added sugar; whilst many pasta sauces contain hidden sugars and salt. Meats in kebab shops are often sprayed with chemicals to prevent them from rotting. 

Indeed, the 'fast food' revolution now means we can order a meal from our sofa, delivered to our front door, in one quick phone call. There are the exception, but many takeaway options, Chinese, pizza, Indian, are often high fat, high calorie, and drenched in salt. The increase in 'chicken shops' has also contributed to an obesity epidemic with its very affordable, palatable, generous portion size, but calorific meals. 

In some parts of London you would not need to walk more than 100 metres to find a fast food outlet. In Hackney Central, a walk down Mare Street will lead to 12 takeaway shops alone. In the London borough of Tower Hamlets you will find 42 chicken shops; whilst Newham boasts 258 takeaway shops in total. 

Health risks

The increase in our bulging waistlines is a ticking time bomb for an early heart attack. Obesity is a marker for a range of cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), where the artery walls become stretched due to more pressure being produced by the heart to pump blood around the body. 

Other cardiovascular disease that may arise is high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia); an excess of fats in the blood that lead to the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. 

A common cardiovascular disease linked to obesity is type two diabetes. This condition is prevalent amongst some cultures such as Caribbean communities; and can develop in later years with age. However, due to high calorie and high sugar dietary behaviour, more young people are developing this condition at younger age.

Type two diabetes is typically characterised by the pancreas becoming overworked through excessively trying to produce insulin in order to lower blood sugar levels, which are consistently elevated. The cells of the body essentially become 'insulin resistant'. 

Symptoms of type two diabetes include constant thirst, weight gain, hunger and excessive urination. The health cost of type two diabetes include disrupting  blood supply to the hands and feet, a condition known as neuropathy. In extreme  cases this can lead to amputation. Kidney damage and a heart attack are also potential outcomes of this disease. 

References

www.theguardian.com/society/2106/jan/28/chicken-shop-mile-britain-fat-cheap-food-obesity

www.hsp.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/television-and-sedentary-behaviour-and-obesity/