Obesity in America – Does Size Matter?

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America is getting fatter, and it’s making us sick. Obesity is a national health crisis. If current trends continue, it will soon surpass smoking in the U.S. as the biggest single factor in early death, reduced quality of life, and added health care costs. Our bodies can’t live without food; however, the abundance of food available to us (along with our sedentary lifestyles) is now a far bigger health threat to us than starvation.

The Obesity Epidemic…

  • The number of overweight and obese people on the planet is growing at the fastest rate in history. In 1980, about 5% of men and 8% of women worldwide were obese. By 2008, the rates were nearly 10% for men and 14% for women. 
  • Nearly two out of every three Americans are now overweight (67%).  This widespread, dramatic increase in excess weight is commonly referred to as the obesity epidemic or obesity crisis.
  • Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height.  For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using a weight and height calculation called the “body mass index” (BMI). According to BMI guidelines, a BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered healthy, 25 and above is overweight, and 30 or higher is classified as obese.

Health Risks…

  • Carrying too much weight is directly linked to many health issues. According to a Surgeon General report in 2003, one out of every eight deaths in America is caused by an illness directly related to overweight and obesity.
  • Research has shown that as weight increases to overweight and obesity, the risk of developing many health conditions also increases.  Among them are coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers (particularly endometrial, breast, and colon), hypertension (high blood pressure), abnormal lipid profiles, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint), and gynecological problems like abnormal menses and infertility.
  • When joined with other risk factors, obesity can have an even more detrimental effect on health. People who are obese and have two or more of the following are especially urged to lose weight to avoid heart disease and other conditions: high blood pressure (hypertension), high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, family history of premature heart disease, sedentary lifestyle, or tobacco use.
  • Studies have shown that for an overweight person, even a small weight loss (between 5 and 10 percent of your current weight) helps lower your risk of developing obesity-related diseases.

Weight Management…

  • Why are we so fat? Most scientists, doctors, and even patients agree that overweight and obesity largely stem from two things: eating too much and exercising too little.
  • In addition to how much we eat, different types of foods and other factors create different hormonal responses in the body, which in turn causes our body to gain or lose weight.  For instance, eating a lot of carbohydrates stimulates secretion of high levels of insulin, which works, among other things, to store fat in our fat cells.  
  • Other hormones that directly affect our appetite and weight include ghrelin and leptin.  Ghrelin causes the feeling of hunger.  Ghrelin levels rise in dieters who lose weight and then try to keep it off. It’s almost as if their bodies are trying to regain the lost fat.  This is one reason why it’s hard to lose weight and maintain the loss.  Leptin, on the other hand, turns your appetite off and is made by fat cells. Many obese people have developed a resistance to the appetite-suppressing effects of leptin and never feel satisfied, no matter how much they eat.
  • Although people may speculate on the role of genetics in obesity, genes do not explain the recent weight gain we’re seeing in so many places around the world.  While a person may have a genetic predisposition toward a certain body type, the fact that each succeeding generation is getting heavier than the last proves that changes in our environment and lifestyles are playing the key role.
  • Living an active lifestyle is vital to maintaining a healthy weight.  Not only does exercise help us burn excess calories, but it also has a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity in normal as well as insulin resistant populations.

Sources:

1. Obesity and Overweight for Professionals http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html

2. How Bad is Obesity, Really? http://heartdisease.about.com/od/dietandobesity/a/obesity_bad.htm

3. The Obesity Crisis in America http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/news/testimony/obesity07162003.html

4. The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html

5.  Why We’re Fat http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/weight-loss/why-we-are-fat.htm

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