Estimated read time: 10-11 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Washington, DC (healthnewsreview)? According to recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), more than 60% of U.S. adults (aged 20-74 years) are overweight, and more than 25% are obese. However, if one uses an ?optimal? instead of ?average? reference (an optimal population being people who live a long life, usually slim people), the number of overweight is much greater.
At the rate people have been eating and gaining weight, soon more than 60% of U.S. adults will suffer from one or more weight-related conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, abnormal lipids, heartburn, stroke, arthritis (a heavy body wears out the joints), and cardiovascular disease. Higher rates of cardiovascular disease mean that more people will have clogged arteries that obstruct blood (and oxygen and nutrient) flow to the brain and other organs, making the obese less smart. A substantial number of obese people will die at a young age from weight-related disorders such as kidney failure and heart attacks. Others will simply suffer from chronic and severe disabilities.
Governments, corporations and individuals can expect to pay more every year for health insurance to cover the costs of treating overweight people. The cost of health care will rise substantially for everyone, because there will be far more people with more complex diseases requiring more expensive evaluation, treatment, and drugs. People will be asked to pay higher premiums for insurance, higher co-payments, and a greater share of drug costs. Employers will ask employees to pay a higher share of their insurance premiums. Higher premiums + a higher share likely means increases far above 10%/year, costing a typical family more than $1000 extra per year.
Programs like Medicaid will treat millions for diseases caused by overweight, such as adult onset diabetes, hypertension, and abnormal lipids. The cost of drugs, office visits, and other means to diagnose and treat these conditions will be a major factor in state deficits. To pay for these expenses, states will be forced to cut spending on the judicial system, security (police, fire, etc.), education, environment, etc. Individuals will face the burden of higher crime, pollutions, traffic jams, etc.
Bad eating habits affect everybody. If we get fatter, we get more diseases and need to spend more time and money taking care of our problems. The obese spend substantial time measuring blood sugar, getting tests, having insulin injections, or taking drugs for glucose (sugar) control, high blood pressure, abnormal lipids, heartburn, etc. The obese have a difficult time moving up and down stairs, getting from place to place, and finding clothes that fit and look good, not to mention dealing with the psychological problem of how to avoid thinking about food.
Even if we are not overweight, we pay a price for our overweight family, friends, and neighbors. The health care system is overburdened with weight-related costs that make it difficult for everyone to receive appropriate treatment and force all to pay more for health care. Doctors are overburdened with weight-related problems. Scarce resources such as fish are being exhausted to feed a population of humans and pets that grow both in number and width.
The NCHS data showed that more than 20% of the adult populations in most states were obese. Alabama and Louisiana are near the top, ~ 24%, with Montana is near the bottom, with about 15% obese.
Apparently, many Southern states are preparing for terrorist attacks that will close supermarkets for weeks or would pull the plug on refrigerators. The high number of overweight people reflects careful attention to food and time spent eating lots of food. If we face a sudden ice age or destruction of our food supply, overweight people in those states will be survivors, with a high layer of fat to protect them against freezing weather. They may save money on clothing and heating during the winter. Unfortunately, these well-fed people may die of heart disease before the ice age arrives or terrorists destroy our food supply. Defining obesity
To determine whether people weigh too much given their height, doctors use the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated as weight/height2. A person is considered overweight when the BMI is 25.0-29.9, and is obese when BMI > 30.0 (among adults age 20 years and over).
Every few years, the Federal Government conducts a survey of height and weight called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and calculates the prevalence (number) of overweight and obese adults for various age groups between 20-74.
Between NHANES II (1976-80) and NHANES III (1988-94), there was a substantial increase in the number of obese people, and an increase in the number of overweight people. The overweight kept eating much more (many of them becoming obese), and some average people became overweight. If these trends continue, we may have two classes of people: some concerned about health, and some interested in eating.
The trend continued between the NHANES II (1976-80) and the 1999 NHANES. The number of overweight increased from 56% to 61% (a 5% increase). The number of obese reached 27%, about twice the rate of 15% in 1976-80.
If these trends continue, soon most overweight adults will suffer from a wide range of weight-related diseases. The costs of treating these people will be staggering, and the mortality rate will jump as the obese develop severe cardiovascular disease. The big meals that seem so fun today will be sorely regretted in the future as families lose their loved ones at an early age.
Thanks to medical advances, people will live long enough to retire, but their lives in retirement will no longer be fun. Days will be spent on medical appointments, taking medications, following special diets, getting help to move around, and other consequences of overweight. Health disorders made worse by obesity Overweight and obese individuals (BMI of 25 and above) are at increased risk for many physical ailments such as: ? High blood pressure, hypertension ? High blood cholesterol, dyslipidemia (abnormal lipids) ? Type 2 (non-insulin dependent) Diabetes. This also includes insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, abnormal insulin levels and other problems of glucose regulation and pancreatic function ? Coronary artery disease (obstruction of the arteries of the heart) ? Angina pectoris (pain in the heart because the heart is overstressed) ? Congestive heart failure (heart cannot pump blood adequately) ? Stroke ? Gallstones and inflammation of the gallbladder ? Heartburn ? Gout ? Arthritis (more weight on bones and joints). ? Obstructive sleep apnea and respiratory problems ? Most types of cancer (men and women) ? Complications of pregnancy ? Poor female reproductive health (such as menstrual irregularities, infertility, irregular ovulation) ? Bladder control problems (such as stress incontinence, stones) and prostate problems (in men). ? Psychological disorders (such as depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, and low self esteem). Moral (healthnewsreview)
One of the national health objectives for 2010 is to reduce the prevalence of obesity among adults to less than 15%. However, the NHANES 1999 data found that the number of obese adults is increasing rather than decreasing. Clearly, national nutrition and health education policies are failing in the U.S, and we need a radical change. There is one proven treatment for overweight and obesity: eat less, exercise more. Despite reports about the effects of genes and glands in obesity, weight gain is the result of one simple principle in physics and chemistry: Weight Gain = Calories IN ? Calories USED. As long as people continue to eat more calories than their bodies need, they will continue to gain weight.
Conversely, anyone can lose weight by eating less and exercising more. No matter what genes or glands you have, anybody loses weight on a diet of 800 calories/day. Unethical experiments in World War II proved that everyone who does not eat loses weight. No Prisoners of a concentration camp, no matter what his genes or metabolic rate, lost weight when deprived of food.
It is well known that overweight causes diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Overweight also contributes to brain loss, cancer, excessive wear and tear of joints, and many other health problems. Overweight people can look forward to a life of disease and physical impairments. If you think eating well is hard, just remember that living with the consequences of fat-related diseases is harder.
Governments and private entities are considering giving people more responsibility and choice in selecting the type of health care they want given the money available to pay for it. Programs subsidized by taxpayers should have clear goals. Do they want to make people happy or satisfied with their care (regardless of health outcomes)? If so, paying for mind altering drugs would likely produce the best benefits. Let consumers purchase pain relievers, drugs that make them feel better, alcohol, food, and other pleasures. One of our favorite options is a program that offers consumers the choice between conventional health care or a one week vacation at a favorite spot (with the understanding that they agree not to seek any health care treatment in the US for one year, no matter how sick they feel).
However, if these programs intend to be efficient and effective to achieve the desirable outcome of reduce morbidity and mortality, they must substantially change their current structure and gather data that is no currently available (and would take years to collect). ? Provide a consensus on several desirable alternative and complementary forms of treatment and data on their costs and benefits. It is important not to establish one best evidence form of diagnosis or treatment because such best evidence is likely to be biased by existing studies primarily funded or influenced by major corporations (i.e., drugs, device makers, etc.); ? Change the incentives to reward behavior associated with improved health and reduced health care costs. The incentives may include higher premiums or co-payments for people who smoke, are overweight, engage in risky sports, or abuse alcohol or drugs of abuse. ? Taxpayers may consider requiring behavioral changes such as weight loss for recipients of their benefits. The burden of requiring weight loss is ethical and light. Losing weight is difficult but achievable. One trick is not to starve, but to make changes in one?s eating patterns and lifestyle. Whenever possible, exercise more (use stairs, park far away, walk more, etc.). Replace processed foods rich in dense carbohydrates and fat with natural foods containing fiber and nutrients. This means eating far more vegetables and lean meats, and avoiding breads, pastas, and fatty foods. Visit www.nih.gov and essentialfats.com for more suggestions. References (essentialfats.com). Siguel E.? Essential Fatty Acids in Health and Disease. 1994, Dept E, P.O. Box 10187, Gaithersburg, MD 20898 (book, $39.95). Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Adults: United States, 1999; National Center for Health Statistics. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a stratified, multistage, probability sample of the civilian, U.S. noninstitutionalized population. See www.cdc.gov/nchs/ Role of fat in health and disease. www.essentialfats.com http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/epidemic.htm http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/index.htm. Graphs with obesity trends, states with most obese people. Stunkard AJ, Wadden TA. (Editors) Obesity: Theory and Therapy, Second Edition. New York: Raven Press, 1993. National Institutes of Health. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Bethesda, Maryland: Department of Health and Human Services; National Institutes of Health; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 1998 This material is merely an opinion; it is not advice and should not be used for any purpose other than entertainment. By reading or using the information contained in or implied by this article, you agree that the content provider shall not be liable for any content errors, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. This information likely contains material errors. Use of this information is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions at essentialfats.com. FREE educational essentialfats bookmarks by mail with summary reminders of nutrition and health. Makes a great gift! Send a self addressed stamped envelope with 37c stamp for 1 oz (up to 7 bookmarks); 60c for 2 oz (up to 14 bookmarks) to PO Box 10187, Gaithersburg MD 20898. Write a note indicating how many bookmarks you want. Quantities limited; offer subject to availability. ? 2000, 2001 Edward Siguel. All rights reserved.
Copyright 1999 Edward N. Siguel. All Rights Reserved