Obesity. It’s taking over the world.
There are few (if any) parts of the globe that remained untouched by the impacts of obesity. What impacts? There are plenty. Whether it is increases in the rates of chronic disease and associated preventable deaths, the threat to health systems or further risk to economies through lower productivity and the like – obesity is a big deal.
Let me throw some numbers at you.
200 million – the volume of adult men that are now considered obese.
300 million – adult women suffering the same affliction.
43 million – the kids who are severely overweight (read… obese)
$1,429 – the increase in medical costs each year for those who are obese when compared to normal weight ranges.
$147 billion – the estimated cost of obesity in the United States each year (2008). That is a chunk of change!
I am sure you will agree, some pretty scary figures. I have a little more bad news… the rate at which we are becoming obese isn’t slowing down any time soon. In fact it has been projected that half of the United States population will be obese by 2030 (it’s already over a 3rd).
Like anything in this world it seems we always love a scapegoat. Someone we can blame for our shortcomings. Instead of looking for tips to reduce tummy sizes we tend to look at who is to blame…
Scapegoat number 1… just blame it on your genes
Many individuals (and some researchers) have gone with the theory that some people are genetically predisposed to gaining weight. It’s all in the genes. Thanks Mom & Dad… it’s all your fault! There is nothing we can do about it. Ah not quite true actually.
While these appears to be some genetic predisposition to gaining weight, since 1980 the number of Americans that are considered obese has nearly doubled. This is way too quick for genetic factors to be responsible for the alarming increase in obesity. So this is not the major issue at play!
Let’s find another scapegoat then.
Scapegoat number 2… We are just to sedentary these days
OK, it’s not the genes, so it must be the lack of exercise then right?
Worldwide there has been a significant shift towards less physically demanding work. Coupled with that we have seen less human powered transportation, lower amounts of physical activity in the home and more time shall we say ‘viewing media’. OK, what I mean by that is sitting on our rump playing video games, watching TV or generally being sedentary. Surely, there is your answer right?
Well… not necessarily.
Researchers at the Bloomberg School’s Center for Human Nutrition completed an obesity review on US adolescents (based on nationally representative data collected since 1991) and they established that “although only one third of U.S. adolescents met the recommended levels of physical activity, there is no clear evidence they had become less active over the past decade while the prevalence of obesity continued to rise,”
In fact their review found signs that the physical activity among adolescents were increasing while TV viewing had actually declined in recent years. Their tips to reduce tummy fat? A decrease in physical activity may not be a key factor in increased obesity rates… let’s move on.
Scapegoat number 3… we just eat too much nowadays!
We might be on to something here.
There is some compelling evidence that we have found our scapegoat. The United States Department of Agriculture’s food availability data gives us a window into food consumption patterns of US citizens from 1970 through to 2008. In 1970 they demonstrate an average consumption of 2169 calories per day. Fast forward to 2008 and the total intake was 2678. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that this is an increase of more than 500 calories per DAY when compared to the 70s.
How much is 500 calories? Well here is a bit of a guide. If you want to eat another 500 calories a day you could…
– Eat a Big Mac each day (actually about 550 calories)
– Chow down on 5 Golden Delicious apples
– Consume 6 Eggs
– Indulge in a 9-oz lean steak
– Or help yourself to 5 Bananas
Hopefully you get the idea that this is a large increase in food calories consumed. In practice, many cases of these extra calories consumed are poor quality nutrition in the form of too much calorie laden junk food as well as consuming portions that are too large. It is near impossible to burn these extra calories through regular exercise.
One guess where the additional calories end up.