Attack obesity by identifying its cause

The HealthGal Health Guide

    Is it the corn subsidies which make it easy for lots of corn based processed products to find their way to your supermarket and then your pantry shelves?

    Is it urban sprawl making it impossible for you to go out daily for a safe brisk walk?

    Is it the alluring power of caloric, nutrient-barren beverage manufacturers who crank out new drink after new drink with tantalizing flavors and colors?

    Is it easy and abundant accessibility of poor quality,less healthy foods?

    Is it the auto age...the computer age...the TV age....leading us to hours and hours of sedentary lifestyle?

    Is it parents so financially strapped they can only afford cheap fast food for their kids?

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    Or parents who can do better but choose to minimize the importance of spending time cooking and eating as a family?

    Just what is causing the obesity epidemic in the US, that is gaining momentum globally?


    A recent article in the journal Lancet offered the question-How are we going to solve the nation's most pressing public health problem, obesity? It offered the conclusion that to solve the nation and global problem you need to first identify the cause or causes.  I am old enough to remember my mom packing a brown bag lunch for me and it included a sandwich, 2 snacks and water or juice.  For sure, one of the snacks was a fruit.  I went out for recess twice a day and for 15 minutes times two, I ran and played with my friends.  I also had P.E. two or three times a week.  I walked to and from school and even with a pretty hefty list of homework assignments, I did play with friends outside after school near my apartment.  When we got a TV I was allowed to watch one 30 minute program daily, after homework until I hit age 11.  Then I was allowed to watch an hour-long program nightly.  Weekends were filled with family trips, walking to and from religious worship and lots of outdoor playtime with friends.  I remember my mom cooking a fresh dinner nightly and we had dinner as a family most nights.  Does any of this even remotely resemble your family life today??  Probably not. 


    Another Lancet article calls the 1970's the "tipping point" of obesity because in that decade and since, technology has mass produced affordable "labor-saving devices."  We don't get up to change TV channels, we click.  We don't walk to the library to do research for a paper, we google.  We don't cook meals, we buy them already prepared.  We don't play outside, we videogame.  The Lancet article points out that in order to bring "bodies back to 1970's size" the average person needs to cut about 250 calories from their daily diet and move more; the obese need to cut more than 500 calories daily and move a lot more. 


    These experts also believe we need to look to the AIDs awareness and treatment model, and especially to the anti-smoking model as a guide.  Additionally, we need to limit the food lobby, do a better job of clearly labeling packaged foods, make whole foods more available and affordable, create communities that foster safe outdoor activities, control advertising especially to impressionable kids, and get schools, parents and local government working together for the good of public health.  Global obesity is now being called "the wicked problem" by one social scientist and is at the top of the list of NCDs or non-communicable diseases now prevalent in the US and world-wide.


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    According to experts, the NCDs topic will become the most talked about global health issue in the next decade.  That's because NCDs now surpass communicable diseases in terms of instigating death and because obesity and diabetes type 2, as well as the #1 killer of men and women, heart disease, are all NCDs.

Published On: October 10, 2011