Obesity, the Other Gulf War Syndrome

Peter Savodnik at Businessweek:

ObesityAccording to surgeons like Al Sanea, the bariatric boom can be traced to the buildup to the 1991 Gulf War. That was when hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops descended on the Gulf nation, bringing with them Taco Bell (YUM), Hardee’s, Baskin-Robbins (DNKN), and Nathan’s Famous (NATH) hot dogs, among others. “The [war] was the demarcation line,” says Dr. Abdulwahab Naser Al-Isa, at the Department of Community Medicine & Behavioral Sciences at Kuwait University. Andrew Smith, the author of the Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, says, “The American military went in, and obviously they wanted fast food. Therefore, the number of fast-food establishments expanded exponentially.” And Kuwaitis fell in love.

If war introduced fast-food joints to Kuwait City, peace made them a permanent fixture. Some 3,400 U.S. troops remained in Kuwait after the war, enforcing the no-fly zone over Iraq. McDonald’s (MCD) first opened in Kuwait in 1994, three years after the war ended. (In contrast, the U.S. withdrew its troops from Iraq late last year, and ongoing spurts of violence mean it’s unlikely that there will be a surge in U.S. restaurants there. In 2011, Pizza Hut, Cinnabon, and Burger King started closing locations in Iraq.)

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