The US has a crisis in the name of obesity. A sizable number of the US population can be said to be obese, that is to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30-plus. The US government is thus compelled to fight obesity with as much valor as it is fighting the terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan. In deed, the fight against obesity in the US has been as long as the fight against terrorism. The fundamental issue that needs to be addressed, both at the national and individual levels, is the cultural cause of obesity, the physiology behind it, and how to address it.
Obesity is the condition in which an individual has a body weight that is at least twenty percent higher than it should be (Medical News Today, 2010). An overweight individual is said to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 25 and 29.9 while an obese individual has a BMI of 30 and above (Medical News Today, 2010; Szalavita, 2010). About 1/3 of the US’s adult population is obese (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). And nearly 21-29 percent of American children are either overweight or obese (Szalavita, 2010). The result has been that about 10 percent of our health costs are linked to obesity (Szalavita, 2010). The causes of obesity are not well documented. However, experts have linked the prevalence of obesity among Americans to their lifestyle. This is more so to their eating habits (Szalavita, 2010; Rose, 2010; Roan, 2011). Their sedentary lifestyle is also to blame, as most of them work in offices and drive to and from their workplaces. But the most acute cause of high levels of obesity among the American people is their eating habits.
Due to the changing economic times, Americans have fittingly adopted different eating habits. They would like to go to work very fast, so they will eat fast foods (ready –made, ready-packed). Moms find no time to breast feed their babies, they will instead leave them with nannies who will bottle-feed them (Szalavita, 2010; Rose, 2010). In the 1950s, from which the epidemic of obesity traces its roots, women (pregnant and non-pregnant) smoked as much as men. This, according to Rose (2010), had the effect of making the babies in the womb obese. And this is the generation of the obese adults we have in America today. Add this to the fact that Americans have come to “treat food as a source of gratification” and the puzzle is complete (Rose, 2010). Americans like it when the food is tasty, cheap and prepared “now” (Rose, 2010).
The food manufacturers have responded accordingly. They have put more sugar, salt, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, dyes, preservatives, and artificial flavors to their food (Rose, 2011). The effect of these additives and preservatives has been to “replace all the nutrients and fiber that is removed from the original food source” (Rose, 2011). Now, these processed foods might taste better but they do not have the needed nutrients that are vital for the nourishment of the body, maintenance of blood sugar levels, and to facilitate proper digestion (Rose, 2011). Indeed, all the chemicals and synthetic ingredients that can be found in many processed foods are foreign to the body; and the body stores everything that the digestive system cannot process-mostly this storage is in the form of fat tissue (Rose, 2011).
One thing about the obese people is that they eat a lot (eating a lot per se, is not the driving factor behind obesity). This can be explained through the “empty-calories” theory. The “empty calories” are the calories that can be found in fried foods and sugary soda (Rose, 2011). These calories are normally quickly broken down as soon as they are ingested. They then cause the blood sugar levels to rise, “body secretes more insulin which leads to hunger signals” (Rose, 2011). So an obese individual will eat more in his or her next meal.
However, this is not the case when people take organic grown produce and products that have been made with organic ingredients (Rose, 2011; Szalavita, 2010; Roan, 2011). Wholesome plant diets are the most viable options. These include grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables, and seeds. These foods are not only good as a preventative measure against obesity, they also help prevent national killer diseases as cancer, strokes, diabetes, and heart diseases (that, apparently, have been notably higher in those people with obesity ) (Roan, 2011; Rose, 2011). These foods, also known as real foods, are nutrient dense and are full of vitamins, enzymes and minerals (Rose, 2011). Real foods, unlike those with empty calories, require more time to digest and so will stay much longer in the stomach. When the stomach is always full an individual will feel satisfied longer, and will eat less at his or her next meal (Rose, 2011).
Obesity is a huge health crisis in the US. To tackle it, there is need for concerted efforts at the national as well as individual level. Obesity is a creation of American’s lifestyle which has become more and more sedentary; life in the US has also become fast-paced than ever before. So Americans will have fast foods that are laden with additives and preservatives but will exercise less. The result has been a crisis, with about 1/3 of the adult population being said to be obese. The solution to this epidemic lies in encouraging people to eat more of organically produced foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds and so on. People should be discouraged from taking sweetened beverages and instead take diet soda, for example. A reduction in the levels of obesity can also result in the reduction of such killer diseases.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). U.S. Obesity Trends. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html.
Medical News Today. (2010). All about Obesity. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/obesity/.
Szalavita, M. (2010). Obesity in America. Retrieved from http://health.msn.com/health-topics/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100261061&page=2.
Roan, S. (2011). Obesity Epidemic may have Roots in 1950s. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-obesity-causes-20111219,0,6170668.story?page=2.
Rose, C. (2011). Obesity in America. Retrieved from http://www.downtoearth.org/health/nutrition/obesity-america.