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We hear it again and again. Obesity is killing us! Are we listening, or maybe the question is do we care? A report, The Heavy Burden of Obesity 2019, identified obesity issues from a compilation of data from 52 countries as well as the US. Within the next three decades, obesity will result in 462 million new cases of cardiovascular disease and 212 million cases of diabetes. In the US, obesity will reduce life expectancy by nearly four years. In most of the countries, more than half of the population is overweight. In the US, that figure is nearly 70 percent. Most people have succumbed to sedentary activities, and 40 percent fail to consume enough fruits and vegetables. That’s a message for all of us whether we are obese or not. It matters.  Image result for free clipart pixabay obesity

This study and others show that obesity by itself isn’t the only culprit decreasing life expectancy. Many food-related practices under gird the reason for overweight societies.

The Lancet published a study from 195 countries on the relationship between dietary habits and chronic non-communicable diseases between the period 1990-2017. Diet-related deaths were highest in Uzbekistan and lowest in Israel. The US ranked 43rd. In 2017, eleven million deaths worldwide were linked to consumption of poor diets high in sugar, salt, and processed meat that contributed to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Subjects drank more than 10 times the recommended amount of sugary drinks, a common factor in obesity. They consumed less nuts and seeds, whole grains, and fruits than suggested by national dietary standards and used excessive amounts of sodium.Weight Loss, Weight, Nutrition, Scale

A study of nearly 45,000 French 45 years-of-age or older found that those who consumed greater amounts of ultra-processed food had a greater risk of early death. Ready-to-eat or-heat foods from ingredients combined with additives signified ultra-processed foods. Those of younger age, lower income, lower educational level, living alone, having excessive body weight and less physical activity were likely to choose ultra-processed foods.

These studies aren’t the first concerning obesity’s impact on longevity nor will they be the last. Most studies found obese men more susceptible to disease conditions leading to early death than were obese women. In some studies, obese men lowered their life expectancy as much as 20 years compared to 5 years for women. That’s significant.

In the US, obesity directly or indirectly impacts healthcare costs. Obesity accounts for more than 20 percent of healthcare dollars due to conditions caused or complicated by obesity. As we consider why healthcare costs continue to escalate, remember that the increasing number of people with obesity is a major cause. When society improves eating habits and decides to take positive action about the rising number of overweight and obese citizens, healthcare costs can decline. Issues of excessive weight and unhealthy food choices affect all of us. Are we listening? What are we willing to do about it?

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The number of obese people in our nation continues to escalate causing us to reflect on whether we are part of the statistics, and if not, should we care? Yes, we should. The rate of obesity impacts our entire population in multiple ways.See the source image

  • Healthcare costs: Studies show medical costs for those who are obese run 42 percent higher than costs for healthy weight individuals. Medical expenses (2016) related to weight issues resulted in $149 billion. Half of that was paid by Medicare or Medicare.
  • Job productivity: The consequences of obesity stagnate workflow because of missed work time and absence from schools and industry. Expenses increased for employers and taxpayers.
  • Military readiness: The most common cause of rejection for young adults into military service is related to obesity. Nearly one in three are ineligible due to weight problems. The Department of Defense pays nearly $1 billion annually for obesity-related issues.

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What is Obesity?

While it remains difficult to categorize everyone with the same standard, for adult the BMI remains the most functional tool to evaluate weight. Those who score 30 or above on the BMI scale are considered obese. Those with scores of 40 or more have severe obesity. Because the causes for this disease are complex, research studies continue to assess the many unique variances of individuals. While most who are overweight or obese overeat, the solution isn’t simply to cut calories, although that may be a good start for most.

Why We Should Care?

Obesity continues to rise to epidemic levels. Nearly 40 percent of American’s are obese compared to about 23 percent 25 years ago (late 80s – early 90s). Six states increased in the number of people with obesity from 2016 to 2017―Iowa, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and South Carolina―while 44 states did not show a statistical increase. That’s just one year. What fuels these increases?

Demographically, slightly more women are obese or severely obese than men. While nearly 40 percent of all adults are obese, less than 13 percent of Asians fall into that category while Latinos and blacks have the highest percentage. A greater number of middle-aged and older adults are obese than other age groups. Also, greater risks for obesity seem to occur in those with less education, those living in rural areas, and those with lower-income levels.

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To abate continual escalation of this major health problem, many communities and states have provided better opportunities for those at greater risk as well as for the general public. Numerous towns and cities now promote farmer’s markets as a source for fresh produce and other local food products. Many states and communities have improved access to quality activities in parks, walking trails, and other activity venues.

While all these efforts help, much of the solution rests in food selections individuals make and the quantity of foods they eat. Some industries have lowered sugar content in many products, and others have sought to make society more aware of what they are eating, such as calorie counts on menus. It takes a concerted effort from all of us to choose foods wisely and to help others understand the best way to make healthy choices. Much remains to be done.

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