Obesity in America
Obesity is rapidly becoming the nation’s No. 1 health concern. Of the 97 million Americans who suffer from obesity, 5 to 10 million Americans are considered morbidly obese. Obesity is considered “morbid” when it reaches the point of significantly increasing the risk of obesity-related conditions or serious diseases that can cause death or disability.
Obesity is typically defined as being at least 100 pounds over ideal body weight or having a Body Mass Index of 40 or higher. Morbid obesity is a chronic disease whose symptoms build slowly over time.
What seems to cause obesity in our population? It is obvious that there is more than one contributing factor so we will take a quick look at some of them.
It is clear that having obese relatives in your family increases your risk for obesity. The genetic predisposition to excess weight is increased by high calorie, easily available, processed foods. This creates a population that is more sensitive to carbohydrates, which store more easily as fat. Science shows that genetics do play a role in obesity.
It is true that food has never, been so readily available to the masses. Add to that a myriad of fast food options, easy food preparation, larger portions and an un-ending selection of snacks; it is easier than ever to get food. The ease, at which we have access to snacks and prepared foods high in calorie, is a big contributing factor to the obese epidemic in our country.
You can also add our social activity. Many gatherings and celebrations occur around the table. We also eat when we are lonely or depressed, along with eating when we are happy or rewarding ourselves.
Add to this the fact that healthy foods are more expensive than high caloric foods, it is no wonder obesity has been on the incline for many years.
Energy balance is the balance of calories consumed through eating and drinking compared to calories burned through physical activity. What you eat and drink is “ENERGY IN” while what you burn through physical activity is “ENERGY OUT.” In order to maintain a steady, healthy weight, the energy in and the energy out should be equal to each other.
It is true that when we experience a serious injury or illness that keeps us from normal daily activity, that we can become inactive and gain unhealthy weight. In addition, some medications can contribute to weight gain.
- 34% of U.S. adults are overweight, and another 31% are obese.
- 15% of children and adolescents aged 6-19, and 10% between 2 and 5, are considered seriously overweight.
- The number of overweight children has doubled in the past 30 years, while the number of overweight adolescents has tripled.
- An estimated one third of Americans are obese.
- About 300,000 deaths a year are associated with being overweight or obese.
- Poor diet and physical activity – two key factors in obesity – were responsible for 400,000 deaths in 2000, or 17% of the U.S. total. That is an increase of 33% from 1990, and puts bad eating habits and lack of exercise in line to replace tobacco as the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States.
- Obesity is associated with increased risk for a number of dangerous medical conditions, including heart disease, cancer, gallstones, high blood pressure, diabetes, and musculoskeletal disorders.
- Someone who is obese increases his or her risk of premature death by 50-100%.
- Direct and indirect annual costs of obesity in the United States are estimated to be $117 billion. That is more than the cost of tobacco-related illnesses.
- At any one time, an estimated 45% of women and 25% of men are trying to lose weight.