Obesity is the number one cause of disease and death in America. It is so out of control that it verges on upsetting both our personal and our financial health. Yet, Americans still continue to eat unhealthy foods. In fact, we are so focused on eating these foods, we've become "obesigenic." By that I mean, we've created an environment that promotes both the increased intake of non-healthy foods and couple that with physical inactivity. When you have two out of three Americans either overweight or obese (including many children) it's clear something must be done.
While poor eating habits, genetics, and physical activity are the key factors contributing to obesity in America, other factors also help create the problem. The need to "supersize" everything is one. For example, McDonald's recently introduced a new line of "super burgers" with more beef than ever. Sales of the new burgers are taking off. Other factors contributing to obesity in America are stress, low self-esteem, and more medicines. Americans often eat to boost their self-esteem or relieve stress. And we take dense amounts of medicines, which increase fluid intake / retention and add pounds.
Obesity Has A Ripple Effect
But what's really scary is that experts have now realized that obesity has a ripple effect on not only our health but also our lifestyles. Obesity contributions to major diseases like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and liver and gall bladder problems. There is scientific evidence that it is correlated to some cancers (in particular, breast cancer and colon cancer). And it contributes to osteoarthritisa deterioration of the cartilage and the underlying bone within a jointas well as the early sunset of menses. These are all major medical problems for Americans.
In addition, obesity puts massive stress on our economy, something most Americans do not realize. Obesity does not just increase our personal out-of-pocket costs, it also affects the cost of our medical insurance system, Medicare, and Medicaid, among other healthcare areas. As of 1998, the most recent statistics available, medical expenses directly attributable to obesity totaled more than $ 78 billion, according to private insurance sources. This number includes both private and public expenditures. That's a financial burden that falls directly on each of us.
What's The Solution
What's the solution? The government recognized the problem in the 1990s and is meeting it head on. Some government agencies, like the Center for Disease Control, have stepped up their attacks on obesity. The CDC introduced a program in 1999 focused on improving nutrition and increasing physical activity as a major way to combat the problem of obesity in this country. This program educates people on why they should be eating healthy foods and has expanded through the country. Overall, the CDC is working with 23 state health departments on the obesity problem.
Private organizations have also joined the fray. The Food Studies Institute (FSI) is devoted to changing the health of children through proper nutrition and education. This effort is the life-long work of Dr. Antonia Demas, who groundbreaking curriculum, Food is Elementary, educates children about nutrition by providing a positive experience of food and food preparation that is fun, hands-on and sensory-based.
These organizations are having an impact. While more can be done in this area, for example, many schools have completely changed their menus. They are now offering more healthy food selections than they were just a few years ago. So are hospitals. You can get a good salad or more vegetables options at most hospitalsnot the case 10 years ago. And while it would be nice to see more public and private programs attack the problem of obesity in America, it's clear that both government agencies and private institutions are doing what they can.
Meeting Obesity's Challenge
But if we are going to meet the obesity challenge, we change our diets and our lifestyles. For one thing we must eat more fruits and vegetables. The keys to good health, they contain the essential vitamins, minerals, and fibers we need daily. Fruits and vegetables are also natural sources of energy. They give the body many of the nutrients it needs to get through the day. More importantly, fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of chronic disease including strokes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.
But eating more fruits and vegetables is just one tactic in the war on obesity. We also must also make other changes as well, such as meat substitutes, including whole grains or beans to meet our daily protein needs. Whatever steps we take, one thing is certain: If we are going to win the war on obesity, we must radically change both our diets and our lifestyles. It's a war we can not afford to lose.