How to Combat Obesity

The beginning of the Obesity plague:

While the United States may be the richest country in the world, we also top the list as the country with the highest obesity rate per capita. Too often ignorance is bliss when it comes to our thinking about the foods we eat and their affect on our bodies. Many people adhere to diets and eating patterns that have no immediate positive effects or quit very soon after we start.

Staying on a diet has become hard 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 often find that the results of our efforts 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, the government 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 – 28% of the population is officially obese. These numbers have jumped by 61% over the past decade, because 27% of us do not 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? 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 do not 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 about 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 causes people to become grossly overweight? Is it genetics? 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 CDC’s Diabetes Program. These days, public health officials have enough on their plates without having to worry about the junk on ours.

Dan Amzallag



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