Research on Obesity in America
" Epidemic obesity is unquestionably a health crisis in the United States, and for that matter, in much of the world. But it is a crisis in slow motion, one that has crept upon us over years, and even decades" (David Katz). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is defined as weight that is greater than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The purpose of this composition is to enlighten readers on the causes and impacts of obesity; furthermore, this writing will introduce preventative measures that can be taken in hopes of reversing the obesity epidemic in America.
Millions of Americans are considered obese. In fact, approximately 33 percent, or 78 million, adults are considered obese. In addition, approximately 17 percent, or 12 million, of America's youth are considered obese. The CDC has also published the following statistics: women with lower incomes are more likely to be obese than women with higher incomes; women who have obtained college degrees are less likely be obese than those who do not have college degrees; among men, those with higher incomes are more likely to be obese than those with lower incomes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Currently, there is no state in America with an obesity rate below 21 percent (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). It is imperative that the obesity problem is addressed immediately as there are many obesity-related health conditions and illnesses that can be prevented.
People who are obese have a higher risk for other obesity-related health conditions and illnesses. The most common illness associated with obesity is type two diabetes. Research conducted by the Nurses' Health Study, suggests women who have a body mass (BMI) of 35 percent or higher have a 93 percent higher change of getting type two diabetes than those with lower BMIs (President and Harvard). The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study conducted a similar research study; the study rendered similar results in men (President and Harvard). Although diabetes is a common illness associated with obesity, other obesity-related illnesses include: hypertension, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, and mental illness.
As previously mentioned, obesity has become an epidemic. The first step of reversing an epidemic is identifying the issue. The second step of reversing an epidemic is identifying the causes of the issue. There are many contributing factors to obesity such as: unhealthy lifestyles, an individual's genetic make up, an individual's family and community environment, and marketing and advertising.
An unhealthy lifestyle, such as lack of physical exercise and an unbalance diet, can contribute to obesity. Good nutrition consists of plant and animal foods and the different components of each, providing nourishment to the body. Nutrition is the most important component in the development of society as a whole, as it is thought to be a solution to problems in societies all over the globe. It has become a top priority for researchers to better understand the link between nutrition and quality of life. Understanding the body's response to different diets of food combinations could give more insight on how critical nutrition is in fighting off diseases that plague society. Type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, types of cancers and several other illnesses can be directly linked to poor nutrition (Nilsen, Holmen, Vik, 2008). Some of these, in fact, are among the leading causes of death amongst people in the United States. By maintaining a balanced diet and providing the body with proper nutrients, we increase the body's ability to prevent or fight off these diseases. The emphasis placed on this can have an impact not only on our quality of life, but also the duration of life. It is fair to say that a young child who has been given proper nutrition since birth will have a longer life expectancy and higher overall quality of life in regards to health and wellness than one who has not. A proactive approach provides the best chances of reducing the risk of these illnesses (Nilsen, Holmen, Vik, 2008). While there are other aspects of life that may affect overall health and wellness; such as physical or mental disabilities, medications, or substance abuse; proper nutrition is a great start.
Exercise can be defined as any physical activity that is planned or repetitive with the purpose of reaching or maintaining certain fitness goals (Booth, Roberts, Laye, 2012). Being regularly involved in physical activity and exercise is highly beneficial to overall health, contributing both physical and psychological benefits. Reducing stress levels, the risk of cardiovascular disease, the risk of obesity and of high blood pressure are amongst the various benefits of regular exercise. It is recommended that individuals participate in about 150 minutes of physical activity per week, but less than 50% of the population in the United States actually does so (Booth, Roberts, Laye, 2012). Knowing that the leading cause of chronic conditions is lack of physical activity and exercise, one would think this percentage would be higher. Many people report not being informed, some admit to having no interest, and others claimed to have better things to do than worry about exercise (Booth, Roberts, Laye, 2012). Whatever the reason may be, the correlation between lack of physical activity and mortality rates due to chronic conditions cannot be ignored.
While the benefits of exercise and nutrition alone are vast, the benefits of these in combination increase exponentially. As a former high school and collegiate athlete, I've seen firsthand the benefits of nutrition and exercise together. As a high school student-athlete, I was your typical American teenager. Skittles and Hawaiian Punch were a must, and a well-balanced meal was hard to come by. I went to college with the same poor concept of proper nutrition and received a rude awakening. Having a nutritionist on-site for every meal during the week not only got rid of my sweet tooth, it taught me the fundamentals of proper nutrition and ultimately changed my life. I was able to benefit tremendously by combining my work ethic for exercise with my newly found knowledge of proper nutrition. Not only was I able to surpass previous goals, I also saw major increases in physical performance. In addition to performance increases, I experienced improvements in my mood, energy levels, and overall quality of life.
In regards to overall well-being, statistics for non-communicable diseases are alarming, causing 36 million deaths in 2008 (Newson, Lion, Crawford, 2013). They are the number one cause of death across the globe, and in 2008 alone were responsible for 63% of the global death toll. The death rate is extremely high in areas of low-income where malnourishment is a primary concern. Due to lack of proper nutrition and adequate exercise, we have seen a large increase in obesity and overweight individuals throughout the world, especially in the United States (Newson, Lion, Crawford, 2013). These factors also can be directly related to a higher susceptibility of contracting a non-communicable disease. It is crucial for the world's population to recognize and understand that both nutrition and exercise are the most significant issue for the development of mankind globally, primarily in the prevention and spread of these diseases.
With these findings, we can conclude that while beneficial when done separately, combining both proper nutrition and exercise are critical to the value of life; It minimizes an individual's risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancers and several other chronic illnesses. The more time and focus spent on these areas usually translates to a better quality of life. Emphasis placed on this at a younger age minimizes the risk involved and gives children a jump-start on a healthy life. With the increase in the amount in non-communicable diseases, this has been recognized on a global scale. Many countries are taking action, investing in further research to better understand the links between nutrition and exercise, and how it best benefits society (Nilsen, Holmen, Vik, 2008).
While engaging in this study I was able to use my own experiences in nutrition and exercise. This allowed me to test different scenarios first hand to determine which was most efficient for me. I found that through both proper nutrition and regular exercise, I was able to benefit tremendously. Although I was able to see improvements by just healthier eating and regular exercise separate from one another, the combination of the two surpassed this all. My body seemed to respond well; healing faster or quicker recovery times, more efficient brain functions and an overall better outlook on life.
Although an individual's lifestyle may be a contributing factor to obesity, however, genetics may also contribute to the epidemic of obesity. Studies suggest a person's genetic make-up can cause obesity and influence unhealthy behaviors. Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is a genetic disorder that can affect an individual's appetite and metabolism (Prader-Willi Association). Common symptoms associated with PWS are unsustainable hunger and slow metabolism. Unfortunately, such symptoms may cause those with the disease to consume more calories and as a result, cause weight gain (Prader-Willi Association).
Individuals often make health related decisions influenced by their community and family environment. The CDC suggests some Americans do not have access to grocery stores and super markets that sell nutritious food options and affordable prices; this is especially true in lower-income, rural areas. Furthermore, parents are less likely to make healthier food choices when there are numerous fast food options available. Fast food, at time, can be more convenient. Marketing and advertisement of fast food and junk food tend to influence consumers decision-making. Researchers from Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University and Queens College propose an extensive research study observing the relationship between consumption of soft drinks and fast food and exposure to TV advertising to these. Physicians from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in the Department of Pediatrics and Department of Community and Family Medicine conducted a research study on the receptivity to TV fast-food advertising in adolescents aged 15-23 and the direct correlation to obesity (McClure, Tanski, Gilbert-Diamond , Adachi-Mejia, Li, Sargent, 2013).
Not only are there a number of health issues that are associated with obesity, there are also economical and societal repercussions as well. The annual cost of obesity in America is approximately $142 billion (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Medical services such as preventative care, diagnostic tests, and other treatments all contribute to direct medical costs.
Morbidity, mortality, and costs associated with employees missing work for obesity-related health issues contribute to indirect medical costs (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). All in all, if we can gain control over the obesity issue in America, we may be able to cut the cut obesity related spending.
As previously mentioned, obesity is an epidemic that can be reversed. Proper education, reducing the amount of time spent in front of screens, and adopting a healthy life style can prevent many cases of obesity.
According to the Harvard School of Health, establishing a good foundation of healthy living is imperative (President and Harvard). Many schools have begun to incorporate health and wellness in school curriculums. Employers are also offering health related programs and initiatives to employees.
Reduce the amount of time spent watching television, playing video games, and surfing the Internet. According to a study published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the average American adult spends at least 2.8 hours a day watching television ("American Time Use Survey Summary"). Time spent watching television, playing video games, and surfing the Internet is time lost participating in physical activities.
Lastly, adopting healthier life styles can impact the issue of obesity in a positive way. Nutrition is the most important component in the development of society as a whole, as it is thought to be a solution to problems in societies all over the globe. Being regularly involved in physical activity and exercise is highly beneficial to overall health, contributing both physical and psychological benefits.