The Situation: Obesity is the most pressing public health issue facing America today. It has reached epidemic proportions and is even harder to treat than the diseases/health conditions it causes. The low treatment success rate associated with obesity is likely because people need to commit to changing patterns deeply woven into social fabric, food and beverage commerce patterns, personal eating habits, and sedentary lifestyle.
- The USA has the second highest obesity rate in the world after Mexico (2010).
- At any given time, an estimated 72 million Americans are on a diet (2007).
- In 2008, $40 billion was spent on diet products. The industry grew to $61 billion in 2011.
- The estimated indirect cost of obesity in America is $450 billion annually (2011). Obesity-related medical care costs $160 billion annually (2010)
- More than 70% of Americans are considered overweight in 2012.
- Projections for the future state that 86% of Americans will be overweight by 2030 -- and 42% will be obese.
- Projections for the future state that 7.2% of the American population (29 million) will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2050.
- 30-40% of people with celiac disease are obese. Yet an estimated 97% of people with celiac disease remain undiagnosed.
The problem underlying these health conditions is the modern American diet heavily-laden with grains, refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and toxic food additives. Our food is killing us. Today's families are fat and diseased from a diet of processed foods, and and our children will be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents. Time is of the essence: We must change course right now.
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, states that their ongoing rigorous research into interventions shows that for real change, individuals need to get past the crash-diet mentality to a lifestyle plan of healthy eating and increased physical activity for the whole family. People need tools that can assist them in making these changes, including support groups and web- or cellphone-based tools. Public education programs are critical.
Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, claims we can reverse the obesity epidemic if we improve options at restaurants. Dozens of studies link eating-out with obesity. We should try to eat healthfully at restaurants. To help, restaurants could normal-size portions and have meals come with healthy sides and beverages.
Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says we can reverse the obesity epidemic by empowering communities and individuals to make the healthier choices the easier choices -- at every stage of life and at every place. Families are crucial — unless the whole family gets involved in a plan to adopt a healthier lifestyle, it will be difficult for the individual to succeed.
What do you think is the solution? Are we on the right path to reversing the obesity epidemic or is more needed?
What to read next: Obesity Epidemic in America – How Did It Begin?
Living life well-fed,