Globally, there are more than 1 billion adults who are overweight and at least 300 million of them are clinically obese. The US is in the forefront of this phenomenon with obesity rates of 36.5 and 41.8 percent among males and females, respectively. While Norwegian obesity rates are lower, recent statistics show that obesity rates are increasing in Norway. Between 1984 and 2000-2003, the obesity rate among 40-45 year olds increased from 8.0-9.0 percent to 19.5-20.0 percent. The economic costs and human lo sses in welfare associated with obesity are already very high and they are expected to increase rapidly. Therefore, it is of critical importance for the society to better understand how the growth in Norwegian obesity can be stopped to avoid ending up at US obesity levels.
We will study some of the main factors that contribute to changing consumer preferences over time and hence, changes in the consumption of healthy and less healthy food products with associated effects on obesity rates and expected hea lth outcomes. Furthermore, we will study the effects of cultural and structural influences and consumer attitudes on the frequency of consumption of healthy and less healthy food products in Norway. Finally, we will focus on the effects of social inequali ties on nutritional quality and obesity among children and adolescents. We will study nutritional status and time use among children in Norway and the US, the effects of the parents' social status and income on food intake and time use, and the outcome in the form of the Body Mass Index.
There are challenges related to the use of several large data sets and development of theoretical and statistical models. Several new statistical methods will be used and even though the data sets already are collected, substantial work is involved in connecting these data sources. However, a highly qualified research team consisting of participants from several research institutions in Norway and the US is likely to succeed.