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British Olympian Applauds North Korea’s Obesity Prevention Efforts

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Two-time British Olympic gold medalist James Cracknell said North Korea and Cuba are really good at keeping their people skinny. That’s because they’re starving.


During a discussion of government programs to combat obesity, two-time British Olympic gold medalist James Cracknell praised North Korea and Cuba for being really good at keeping their people skinny.

These two countries have really “got a handle on obesity,” Cracknell said Tuesday in an interview with Sky News. 

When a reporter pointed out that people in both of those countries are starving due to oppressive governments, the former Olympian, who is running for a seat in Parliament, said: “Exactly. But there were sanctions and everything else. But the example is behavioral change.”

Cracknell’s comment comes amid reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is allegedly starving his people in order to fund his government’s development of nuclear weapons. Last year, his government warned North Koreans to prepare for a famine after their nuclear weapons tests spurred the United Nations to slap the country with tougher sanctions.

This isn’t the first time the communist Hermit Kingdom has deprived its people of food. Throughout the 1990s, an estimated 10 percent of the population died as a result of starvation, and many reportedly turned to cannibalization. Surprise, surprise! When you deprive people of food, they don’t get fat!

Cracknell got a lot of blowback on Twitter for his ridiculous remark, which he later acknowledged was a “stupid analogy,” before continuing to double down on the idea that government should be doing more to combat obesity.

As Reason magazine’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown pointed out, Cracknell’s rationale is similar to an article Cosmopolitan published in 2013 entitled: “Why Cosmo loves the ‘Cuban diet.'”  It reads:

Cubans could no longer afford to be fat. In that five-year period, they lost an average of around five kilos per person, which is over 11lbs. As a result of people getting slimmer, they also started living longer, with fewer Cubans dying of diabetes and heart disease.

All of which is fantastic – except it didn’t last. When the crisis ended, people started eating more and moving less and putting all that weight back on until, in the mid 2000s, they were right back where they started.

Those silly Cubans. They’re eating again!

In Cuba, which is also a communist country, food is tightly rationed. Hunting, fishing, and growing food without government permission is illegal. The amount of food one is allowed to eat meets about a third of an average adult’s nutritional needs, and as a result, the number one cause of hospitalizations is malnutrition.