Obesity: As Dangerous As WMD
I think I’ve been watching too much TV lately.
The latest program to rattle my cage was a recent documentary involving Alice Waters, the well-known American chef and cook-book author, who founded the restaurant Chez Panisse in the Bay area in 1971.
In terms of food, it was a revolutionary step generated by Alice’s determination to offer meals made from healthy, organically grown fruit and vegetables, and to educate the general public about the benefits of eating natural produce, as opposed to junk food and over-processed products.
Though Alice's restaurant has thrived over the past three decades and meals there have given tens of thousands of visitors a new taste sensation, the message still has a long way to go.
According to medical health experts, obesity in the United States is at an all-time high.
This got me doing some hasty research, the results of which I’ll cram into a nutshell here.
An estimated 57% of Americans are overweight, including 60% of Americans aged 20 and older. One-quarter of American adults are also obese. Statistics indicate that 280,000 adult deaths each year in the US are attributable to obesity.
It’s estimated that nearly 31% of American teenage girls and 28% of boys are somewhat overweight, while an additional 15% of American teenage girls and almost 14% of teen boys are obese. It's been determined that the prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing in all major socioeconomic and ethnic groups, including children and younger adults between 25 and 44.
In a recent address at a conference of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, the current US Surgeon General, Richard H. Carmona, stated that obesity is the greatest health threat facing the country, and that the threat is as real as “weapons of mass destruction”.
Ironic is that Americans spend some $33 billion dollars a year on weight-loss products and services, but hesitate to take the simple steps that could help lead to healthy weight loss and to an overall better quality of life: namely, exercising more and eating less, focusing on meals consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables rather than junk food and over-processed and high-fat products.
These aren’t the only solutions, of course; a number of factors can contribute to obesity. These include genetic, psychological, physiological, metabolic, socioeconomic, cultural, and lifestyle. On the whole, however, obesity is considered a chronic disease rather than simply a lifestyle choice, although the latter is seen to be the main cause. The problem is twofold: people don't get enough physical exercise and they eat too much food. (It’s difficult to resist fast-food offers of two or even three portions for the price of one! McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and countless other proponents of SAD - the Standard American Diet - have a lot to answer for.)
As if the physical and emotional effects of being severely overweight or obese aren't enough, sufferers are prone to a host of other diseases resulting directly from obesity. These include (but aren't confined to):
-High blood pressure and high blood cholesterol
-Coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure
-Type 2 diabetes (becoming increasingly prominent in children)
-Low back pain
-Obstructive sleep apnea and other respiratory problems
-Some types of cancer, such as endometrial, breast (fries have been linked to breast
cancer), prostate, and colon
-Complications of pregnancy
-Poor female reproductive health such as menstrual irregularities and infertility
-Bladder control problems
-Psychological disorders, including depression,
eating disorders, distorted body image, and low self esteem
Truly shocking was a comment by one of the medical experts who’d been interviewed in the program about the prevalence and dangers of obesity. He stated that if the current trend continues, this generation of children will become the first in human history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
Food for thought indeed.
For clinical purposes, obesity is described in terms of Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a more accurate measurement than weight alone. A healthy BMI is 19-24. Simple overweight is a BMI of 25-29. Obesity begins at a BMI of 30. Morbid obesity begins at a BMI of 40. Super morbid obesity begins at a BMI of 50, and super-super morbid obesity begins at a BMI above 60.
You can find out your Body Mass Index (BMI) by using thisSimple Calculator