Obesity in America

Do you ever remember the saying, "sticks and stone may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me"? Well try these words on for size: "One of the leading causes of death right now is obesity." The Surgeon General, David Sacher claims that being overweight or obese may soon take over the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you’re overweight or obese, hearing those words will most definitely hurt.

Several millions of people right now are suffering from obesity and it is evident that this particular condition has been spreading continuously in the United States each year. The rising obesity epidemic reflects the profound changes in society and in behavioral patterns of communities over recent decades.

While genes are important in determining a person’s susceptibility to weight gain, energy balance is determined by calorie intake and physical activity. In other words, health promotion and the maintenance of health in such individuals is key to an individual’s health status.

In defining the magnitude of the obesity problem, Tommy G. Thompson, US Secretary of Health and Human Services points out that in 1991, no US state had an obesity rate higher than 14%. At present, there is no state except Colorado that has an obesity rate lower than 15%. One reason, said Janet Voûte, Chief Executive Officer, World Heart Federation, Switzerland, is a cultural shift. She cites for instance that the time the average family takes preparing meals has gone down from two hours to 15 minutes in the past few years.

There are other sources and entities which claim that corporations bear some responsibility for the problem. Because of rising health costs, he said, "we’re essentially subsidizing the food industry to peddle junk food to kids". This is not that easy though since regulation is not an ideal solution.

Multi-national corporations like Unilever, Pepsi and Coke had all voluntarily changed their products and practices to respond to clamor for growing health concerns. There was the pressure on them to do their own regulation in coming up with better, healthier foods. It was even revealed that Unilever was asked to reduce trans-fatty acids in their products. Unilever’s response was dramatic. It eliminated them altogether.

On the other hand, Dr. Marion Nestle feels that poor nutrition is the ultimate reason for obesity. Diets lacking calcium, phosphorus and other nutrients tremendously affect the weight gain or loss of a teenager’s fat cells. Dr. Bedell, agrees with the findings." Any family below the poverty level has an incredible amount of outside stress," she said." If there’s no education of nutrition, it’s a matter of surviving emotionally and physically."

Until the United States comes up with healthier alternatives, until the country recognizes that there is a widespread epidemic that is spreading, until they admit that there should be concrete efforts on the part of the corporations as well as the various health organizations, the epidemic will continue to exist. For those millions of people, the time for a radical change of lifestyle is now.