Obesity Rises In America
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Health and Wellness

Obesity Rises In America

We have to understand why before we can figure out how to fix it.

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Obesity Rises In America

There are new statistics out about obesity for the United States, and they are not looking good. Based on the information provided by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, a body mass index of 30 or higher is considered obese, and a body mass index between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. According to JAMA Internal Medicine, 75 percent of men and 67 percent of women between 25 and older are overweight or obese. 20 years ago, 65 percent of men and 55 percent of women were overweight or obese. This is a painful sign that campaigns trying to influence Americans to eat healthier and exercise more are not making any progress. This is the first time that obese Americans outnumber those who are overweight.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, states the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Children 6-11 is nearly 18%, which was 7% in the 1980s and the percentage of ages 12-19 years have increased from 5% to 21% over the same period. More than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. This raises many health risks. Obese youth are more likely to have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Based on a population sample, 5 to 17 year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one of these health risks. Obese children are more likely to have pre-diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems.

More statistics done by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: there are many obesity-related conditions that are deadly, including type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. These are some of the leading causes of preventable death. In 2008, the annual medical cost of obesity was $143 billion. This is $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

Income and education does have an impact on higher obesity rates, but not what you may think. Those with higher income among African American and Mexican-American men tend to have higher obesity rates than those in low income. On the other hand, women in higher income are less likely to be obese than low-income women. Obesity based on education between men and women are also different. There is no significant relationship between obesity and education among men, but with women, obesity rates are lower with those who have a college degree than those who don’t.

There are many movements that are trying to lead Americans away from super-sized meals and lead a healthier lifestyle, one being Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program that is aimed towards children and state funded interventions that have nutritionists going door to door trying to educate people on eating healthier, as well as The Food and Drug Administration’s move to ban trans-fats from food supply in June of this year.

The big question is why obesity rates in America continue to grow. Income does have a lot to do with obesity. Mississippi, the poorest state, has the highest obesity rate. This does not just hold true to Mississippi, but many other lower income states. The prevalence of cheap, processed foods, the layout of neighborhoods and access to parks and public transportation also factor into obesity rates. Walter Willet, who chairs the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, says:

“There is no single, simple answer to explain the obesity patters in America. Part of this is due to lower incomes and education, which result in purchases of cheap foods that are high in refined starch and sugar. More deeply, this also reflects lower public investment in education, public transportation, and recreational facilities.”

Willet also states that food industries are doing their job all too well. The food industry is very competitive. Researchers have not just perfected the tastes of prepared foods, but also their packaging and advertising. America has started a culture of an unhealthy food environment.

Television is also a factor in America’s obesity rates. The time children spend interacting with screens on televisions, computers, cell phones, and other devices has risen dramatically, more than seven hours a day, and to add to that seven hours, “mindless eating” has become a normal thing while watching TV in an American household.

Though TV’s and other electronics have played a role in higher obesity rates, America’s activity level hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, our diets have. Portion sizes have increased and consumption of sugary drinks have risen. Willet also talks about the anti-fat message of the 80s that drove people to avoid fat. But, this increased carbohydrate intake. The problem with this was that carbohydrates were in the form of highly processed starches, which behaves much in the same way as sugar.

Willet has rejected the idea that genetics play any role in American obesity. He pointed out that the current crisis is new. Our grandparents and great-grandparents’ generations did not suffer from this epidemic like we are today. The obesity rates were a third of what they are today. Genes don’t change that quickly.

It’s easier to grab a cheap meal at McDonalds than it is to make a fresh meal at home with all the necessary foods. People are becoming busier and the statements, “I don’t have time to make dinner tonight, let's just eat out," or, “I don’t have time to go to work out,” have become very popular throughout the United States. Many of these campaigns have not made any progress, and I think it is because cheap, unhealthy foods and sedentary lifestyle has made obesity the new norm in America, and this makes things even harder to change. It all comes down to what people are willing to sacrifice for the wellbeing over their health.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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