The major American issue

Published 12:32 am Friday, April 4, 2003

By Staff
More than half of American adults - 54 percent - are considered overweight.
This percentage has risen 11 percent since the 1960s. Why the big rise? Maybe it is attributed to the fact that more children today are obese. One out of every eight school-aged child is considered obese and one in every four is considered overweight.
Being overweight and obese has many more issues than just the appearance factor that so many people focus on. It has a huge amount to do with health problems. Diabetes is the disease most closely linked to overweight individuals. Since 1990, type 2 diabetes has skyrocketed 33 percent in this nation. Around 800,000 Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. Not only is diabetes an effect of being overweight but with that comes high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, amputations and the list goes on.
Have obesity and diabetes hit their peak? Jeffery P. Koplan, a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta stated, "Much of the impact of the upsurge in obesity may be felt some years from now, because there is a substantial delay between the onset of obesity and the subsequent development of diabetes".
Why is there so much obesity in the United States? Is it because of the lack of activity and the poor diet?
I believe these are two very true statements. It seems like people have such busy lives that by the time they get home, exercise is the last thing on their minds. Busy lives make for less time to cook healthy meals. Eating out becomes the convenient thing to do. I also agree with Brownell when he says that our environment has a negative factor on us. From gas stations to vending machines, shopping malls, restaurants, commercials, advertisements, etc… all tempt us with the wrong foods.
Brownell goes on to say, "Food is more accessible and cheaper than ever. I've seen two Big Macs for two dollars - that's a lot of calories for not much money."
I believe this to be very true. How tempting it is to by two big hamburgers for a dollar apiece, which is cheaper than buying a pound of hamburger from the grocery store. It is amazing that when you go shopping all of the nutritious foods are barely affordable and the "junk foods" are the cheapest. Recently I decided to only buy nutritious foods and dinners. I almost went broke. It just seems almost like a catch-22. Americans are the most overweight society although it can be unaffordable to cook healthy meals. I only have to cook for two, I can't imagine trying to afford to cook nutritiously for four or more!
The lack of activity also poses a great problem to obesity. With the use of computers and many hours of work, who has the time to be active? By the time you get home you have to tend to your family and you are dead tired. Our children have it worse than we did at their age. Children are less active today then 20 years ago. Television, computers and video games are huge contributors to this problem.
So with this information what is the solution?
Brownell said exactly what I was thinking, "We could subsidize the cost of fruits and vegetables and, if necessary, tax unhealthy foods".
I believe this is a terrific idea. The only time I see really good sales at the stores is on junk food. Another interesting point I have noticed is commercials on the television. It is not too often I see commercials for healthy food. Maybe if there were more pro-nutritious commercials geared toward children it would make a positive affect.
Thought of the week: Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. - Jim Ryun
Happy Spring!
Reference: Nutrition Action Health Letter
Amy McKean is the adult programs director at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA. She can be reached at