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Why are we losing the battle against obesity

Why are we losing the battle against obesity

Picture of Elizabeth  Marigliano

Over the past few decades, the number of obese people around the world has steadily increased. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that in 2014 over 1.9 billion adults were overweight, with over 600 million of these being classified as obese.

The problem in the US is particularly bad, with nearly 70% of adults in America being either overweight or obese. We take a look at some of the obesity trends in the United States and thoughts as to what could possibly be behind these worrying trends.

Childhood Obesity

Unfortunately, it’s not just adult obesity that’s a problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over a third of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

Studies have shown that obesity leads to a range of immediate health issues, such as increased cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Obese children are also at increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea (60% of obese children), musculoskeletal problems, and asthma (40-50% increased risk).

Childhood obesity generally sets the trend for adulthood as well, with obese children more likely to be obese as adults. They’re also more susceptible to chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes – more than 75% of children who have this condition are obese. Obesity also increases the prevalence of certain cancers as well as cardiovascular disease.

Diabetes on the Rise

The obesity epidemic has been linked to a concerning increase in the number of adults with diabetes, a number which has quadrupled worldwide over the past four decades. In the US, the number of adults with diabetes rose from 11.9m in 1980 to 22.4m in 2014.

Diabetes can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, blindness, and premature death. This has led the WHO to call for healthier diets and increased physical activity in order to avoid excessive weight gain and combat the alarming issue.

Surging Food Supplies

Overconsumption of calories is becoming much easier these days. With ultra-processed food products being relatively inexpensive, highly palatable and widely advertised, it is no surprise that it is to blame for much of the increase in available calories.

The sheer availability of all this food is thought to be a big part of what is contributing to these worrying obesity levels. When you face constant incentives to eat, it can be harder to control your food intake.

Prevalence Among Lower-Income Families

A link has been found between obesity and lower-income, with lower-income women being more likely to be obese than higher income ones. Childhood obesity among preschoolers is also more prevalent among those from lower-income families, according to the CDC.

This is thought to be linked, at least in part, to limited access to affordable healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Not only is having access to a supermarket associated with a reduced risk for obesity but living in an area with an overabundance of retailers that sell less healthy foods makes it more difficult for parents to choose healthier options.

Lack of Education

With the amount of misinformation out there, it is easy for people to get confused about what kind of foods are truly healthy. Often, online articles make some bogus claims about the safety of eating a donut since it actually contains fewer calories than a piece of fruit.

These supposed ‘health’ articles do nothing to help the American population gain a better understanding of how to deal with being overweight or obese. It is for this reason that new research suggests that the best place to start a solution against widespread obesity is in schools.

Lessons surrounding healthy eating and physical activity, as well as improving school lunches and make students more active at school would help to improve children’s health. Of course, it is also important to support parents in making similar changes at home and limit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

The Link Between Climate Change and Obesity

In trying to find a solution for these two modern world dilemmas, some studies have pointed to a correlation between the two issues. It is thought that a diet high in meat is associated with an increased risk of obesity, which in turn has an effect on climate change.

Not just that, but new technologies such as cars and computers, have also been linked towards a decrease in physical activity and an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Dealing With Obesity

It is clear to see that obesity it still a worrying problem in the United States. One of the key takeaways from these findings is that education is just as important as other solutions, such as taxation and the adjusting of portion sizes. This will help to deal not only with adult obesity but also childhood obesity.

[Photo via Shutterstock]


Picture of Missy Woodruff

I think it's worth actually considering that obesity is in our DNA. In other words, for 100k+ years food was scarce, and we had to gorge when we could. Now our brains still see scarcity, even when presented with abundance: - Probably triggered by the prevalence of advertising, too. interesting thought, what do u think?

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