May 13, 2018 #1
**This is a rough draft just need you to put me through the ringer, thanks**
Everything is bigger in America
America is more educated now than at any time in its history, which means America should be making better decisions, but is America making better decisions regarding food choice? Obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure rates are pegged at their highest levels in children and adults since the government started tracking those statistics something is awry! My limited research has shown a causation link between fast food consumption; obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The over indulgence of fast food is a problem food choice in current day America needs to be solved. How can decreasing fast food consumption, in the United States, increase life expectancy, reduce healthcare costs, and promote a healthy diet for everyone.
Obesity in America did not happen by chance the correlation between fast, cheap, large portioned calorie dense food and increased numbers on the scale is correlated. There is a saying that "Everything is bigger in Texas", well that could also be said about food portions in America today. Since 1950 the average hamburger, fry, and drink meal has increased a whopping 456% calorically that equates to approximately 590 extra calories. Those extra calories are going somewhere and the answer to that question is to the waist of many Americans. The average male is 28lbs heavier today that a man from 1950. The average female is 24lbs heavier than the average female from 1950. Fast food is a high calorie dense food meaning unlike vegetables there is more calories per ounce than low calorie dense foods like vegetables. 1 ounce of French fries has approximately 85 calories about the same as 12oz of cauliflower! That is why fast foods normally being so calorie dense are such catalysts for obesity. There are over "230,000 fast food restaurants" in America in 2017 compare this to 1960 there were under 1000 verified fast food restaurants operating in America. (Stastica, 2017)
The obesity problem in America is more than just larger portions the correlation is related to fast food restaurant density within communities. One such study showed probably causation when focusing on high school age children specifically 9th graders and their proximity to fast food establishments. The "study of millions of schoolchildren by economists at the University of California and Columbia University." showed some interesting results. They were able to monitor students before and after a fast food restaurant opened to see if there were changes in obesity rates. The data, once adjusted for factors such as income, race, education, showed a 5% increase in obesity. The change was a fast food restaurant that is practically causation. There have been other studies that have investigated restaurant eating and weight gain, but the premise is too broad and variables uncontrolled. This was the first study to spend significant time with before and after data that showed proximity and the percentage increase in obesity.
The habits ingrained in our children due to fast food eating habits are long lasting and har to break. A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics tracked children with a high BMI and tracked them into adulthood. The results showed that children with a high bmi at a young age were four times more likely to have a high bmi in adulthood. BMI (body mass index) is a weigh to gauge obesity with a rating of 30% deemed obese. With fast food helping to increase obesity in children and statistics showing how hard it is for a obese child to not be obese as a adult change needs to happen. It is common for adults to say things like "I've always eaten like this" and that too may have just been proven true. A study by researchers of twins showed if a twin gained weight as a child and the other did not he the higher weight twin was more apt to continue those habits and weight gain into adulthood. (Time, 2016) The habits of eating fast food as a quick meal to stop a crying mouth, a easy fix, or a quick meal needs to be thought out the behaviors can be long lasting and the effects far reaching.
Focusing on the family or eating as a family unit is a great tool to fight obesity and the fast food overindulgence in America. Family and friends are a priceless component to enjoying life and much of that time is spent over a meal. I posed this exact question to friends, "Tell me a time you had a good family meal?" I did not receive a story back that had a fast food restaurant involved in it. Family meals are usually based around home cooking, authentic food, with memories shared. As it turns out studies have proven that in America families that eat together are less obese as well. One study showed that families that shared 5 meals a week showed a 24% less chance of being obese. (WebMD, 2011) There are emotional ties and a bonding that takes place that adds an intangible affect to shared family meals as well. With that bonding comes a conversation and better chance at nutritional discussion versus a disconnected family. The same study shows families that talk about nutrition have a 30% less chance at being obese than families that do not talk about obesity. This parallels with the previous study if America can keep its children from becoming obese there is less of a chance that those children will be obese in adulthood. Clearly eating as a family has benefits that are more than just physical American families need to embrace this.
The problem is not necessarily fast food, but the choices Americans make daily. Throughout what I have written fast food has been portrayed as the enemy much like a trespasser or intruder, but is it? Food is a choice and there are healthy options at fast food restaurants it is much harder for Americans to choose them for some reason. A study that done by the RAND corporation has made some earth shattering discoveries. The problem with America and its growing obesity problem isn't fast food itself. The problem is America has too much cheap food and a abundance of nonperishable cheap food. In 1930 when the average BMI for a man was 23 and the average BMI for a woman was 20 Americans spent 25% of their income on food. As the years have progressed that has changed radically, and current day Americans pay under 10% of their income on food items. As cheap food has become abundant Americans eating habits have not changed. The BMI for both men and women are up over 6% during that time frame and the key catalyst is cheap tasty food. The key here is cheap and tasty food from the restaurant variety is Fast Food. The quantity of snacks, treats, and nonperishable items is ever growing, and this has made America a snacking society too. Cheap food, snacking in between meals, the endless stream of calories can only lead to one thing weight gain. Some counter arguments have been made that the reason for weight gain is lack of fruits, vegetables, and healthy options. That has been rebuked in America there are more healthy options an at a lower price than at any time in history. The problem is too many cheap choices for high calorie food and the average American cannot say no.
The cost of fast food is cheap, but long term the cheap food option is not worth the many sacrifices in regard to health, cost, and longevity. There is no calculation or study that can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you eat at a fast food restaurant a negative health effect will occur. What can be found is frequency and the effects of eating too much fast food! Studies have shown that eating the average combo meal twice a week increases obesity by 34% and the percentage increases as the consumption of fast food increases. The average combo meal at a fast food restaurant is 961 calories or almost one half the calories needed for a adult. Obesity is the leading cause of preventable disease in America a title once held by smoking cigarettes. The range of treatable diseases ranges from high blood pressure, type II diabetes, stroke, certain kinds of cancer, GERD, degenerative arthritis, and other cardiovascular disorders. The average obese person will spend 79% more on healthcare than a non-obese person. The most terrifying statistic is of a shortened life expectancy, on average 8 years, should be enough to make anyone second guess what they are putting in their bodies. The food is cheap, it is tasty, the long-term effects of obesity from eating such food should make Americans think twice before overindulging.
The best way to fix America's obesity problem is through health education and learning about nutrition. Unless America wants to become a dictatorship and ban fast cheap food or put a huge excise tax on cheap fast food (which it won't) true health education is the long-term fix. America for a long time had quite the fascination with smoking and being highly addictive a problem. After many years of ad campaigns, surgeon general warnings, the medical community making it clear that smoking was the leading cause of preventable death things have changed. The effort was long-term and uniform across all sectors there were some laws that banned smoking indoors as well. Today we now see rates of tobacco use dropping across all ages, races, and incomes in America obesity has taken the driver's seat. The effort to reduce obesity in America will require the same hard work, tenacity, and concerted effort that was taken against tobacco use in America and the result will be the same. Researchers did a study that showed a link between schooling and obesity. The more school a person had the less likely he or she was going to be obese. This was true in all countries studied except for Korea which was cultural reasoning. America as its population gets more educated by attending college and as health education grows in schools, neighborhoods, families, careers, there will be a reduction in obesity in America.
In conclusion America does have a obesity problem and fast food is a contributing factor to the high rate of obesity. The diseases manifesting itself out of a obese body type are well documented and often preventable unlike many other diseases. The growing waistline of America has come down to freedom of choice and lack of understanding, desire, and the ramification of the food choice that Americans make daily. With better understanding of food requirements, caloric needs, and the over consumption of food that causes obesity the trend of rising obesity rates will start to trend down. Just as the data shows all the reasons for a increase in BMI and obesity I can be sure that increased education and awareness will help bring those rates down for the current and future generations. Obesity is a choice that starts with what people choose to put in their mouth as they eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Fast food isn't worth the disease, the sickness, the decreases longevity that healthy living can provide. The family meals that Americans remember can be made new again over the dinner table. Instead of growing the pant size America can grow the fondness of family and bonds of a great unit while eating healthier, living longer, with a better quality of life.