Column: Obesity is on the rise

Published 4:41 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

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 contributed 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 much more to do with 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 sky rocketed 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? "American lifestyles, including inactivity and poor nutrition, are having a dramatic influence on our health," Koplan said.
"Our diet is deteriorating and physical activity is declining. Our environment conspires to make both worse and worse," adds Yale University expert Kelly Brownell. 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. It just seems almost like a catch 22. Americans are the most overweight society although it can be unaffordable to cook healthy meals.
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 twenty 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 towards 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
Reference: Nutrition Action Health Letter