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Understanding Obesity and How to Avoid It: Part 1

Understanding Obesity and How to Avoid It
Part 1
by Dan Amzallag

While the United States may be the richest country in the world, it also tops the list as the most extreme when it comes to obesity per capita. Far too often ignorance is regarded as bliss when it comes to food and its effect on the body. Many people adhere to diets and eating patterns that have no positive effect on the body or fail within a few months.
Staying on a diet has become one of the hardest tasks in today's society, and sometimes it is even harder than maintaining a successful marriage. Many of us in search of the perfect body and perfect health all too often find that the results of our efforts and objectives fall short of our expectations. We try diet after diet only to realize, down the road, that we have spent an average of as much as 20% of our annual budget on the futile pursuit of reaching what we consider to be our ideal weight. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers obesity to be a disease, the government is spending roughly $16 million annually on programs that prevent obesity by promoting nutrition and physical activity. In comparison, it spends almost $100 million on programs that control tobacco addiction. Margo Wootan, D.Sc., a nutrition scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C., claims Poor diet and inactivity kill as many people as tobacco. The investment in nutrition and physical activity programs pales in comparison to their impact on health.
According to the CDC, 56.4% of U.S. adults are overweight. Depending on the year being surveyed, a hefty 19 to 28% of the population is officially obese. These numbers have jumped by 61% over the past decade, because 27% of us don't engage in any physical activity and another 28.2% aren't regularly active.
Can this disease place itself in the ranking alongside the category of HIV-infected people? Obesity, which now is considered a national disease, claims its victims after decades of weakening their hearts, blowing holes in their arteries, suffocating their organs and grinding their joints. Aside from being publicly shunned, many doctors don't know how to treat obesity. Obesity is not just a national case of bad eating habits; obesity is a real disease and a public health crisis.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends approximately 1% of its annual budget on obesity research. In 2001 it designated $226 million for the study of obesity. By comparison, it allotted $2 billion for research concerning cardiovascular disease and diabetes (diseases in which obesity is the major risk factor). So what is it that causes people to become grossly overweight? Is it heredity so that we are destined to be obese for the rest of our lives? Is it a lack of motivation to push ourselves to the gym every morning and eat healthier to reach our ideal weight? Promoting healthy lifestyles should be a national priority, declared Frank Vinicor, M.D., and Director of the CDCs Diabetes Program. These days, public health officials have enough on their plates without having to worry about the junk food on ours.
Obesity, an enormous challenge for the country, is a deadly disease that must be eradicated. There are a myriad of diets on the market that attempt to inspire individuals and communities to enlist in the fight against fat. In terms of annual costs of this disease for the country, every year an estimated 300,000 Americans die from obesity-related causes. The direct cost of obesity and inactivity accounts for nearly 10% of all health care expenses. The Fat epidemic has reached such a high level among the U.S. population that obesity now has the potential to bankrupt our country, warns John Foreyt, Ph.D., Director of the Nutrition Research Clinic at Houston Baylor College of Medicine. People are living longer, but were living fatter with chronic health problems and reduced quality of life. If the current trends continue, half of America will be obese by 2010, says Todd Whitthorne, producer of the syndicated show Healthy Living with Dr. Cooper. That is eight more years before 150 million Americans are at enormous risk. This is a truly discouraging statistic.
Obesity levels have increased sixty percent across the nation since 1996 affecting more than seventy million Americans, reports ABC News. Many blame overeating for this increase but food is only part of the problem. What many don't realize is that the never-ending supply of labor saving and prepared food has greatly attributed to the obesity problem by actually changing the environment (due to increased technology) that we work and live in.
Many other factors contribute to the increase obesity level in the United States. In the next issue, we will discuss further on how possible solutions can be implemented so more of the American population can redirect their energy in living a healthier life.

This article is continued in the 5-15 issue of the Picket.

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