According to STAT News, “Americans born in 2021 can expect to live for just 76.1 years — the lowest life expectancy has been since 1996, according to a new government analysis published Wednesday. This is the biggest two-year decline — 2.7 years in total — in almost 100 years.” It’s only going to get worse too.
The Covid-19 pandemic is the primary cause of the decline, but we are ignoring another statistic. An Oxford University research found that moderate obesity, which is now common, reduces life expectancy by about three years, and severe obesity, which is still uncommon, can shorten a person’s life by ten years.
The studies used body mass index (B.M.I..I.) to assess obesitB.M.I.B.M.I. is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. If a person has a B.M.I. of 30 to 35, they are moderately obese; if the B.M.I. is 40 to 50, they are severely obese. Though no perfect, B.M.I. helps assess the extent to which fatty tissue causes ill health.
Rising obesity rates in the United States are slowing life expectancy gains, accelerating aging, and widening racial health disparities, according to “Rising Obesity in an Aging America,” a new reporP.R.Bublished by P.R.B. Older Americans with obesity face a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, spend more of their later years with a disability, are less likely to get the help they need at home, and are more likely to move into nursing facilities than their peers without obesity.
The report highlights research on the health impact and social consequences of obesity in the United States conducted by researchers supported by the National InsN.I.A.ute on Aging (N.I.A.) at the National Institutes of Health.
“Obesity is a leading cause of preventable disease and death among U.S. older adults,” said Mark Mather, P.R.B.’s U.S.ident for P.R.B.’s U.S. Programs. “Obesity rates among older Americans nearly doubled between 1988 and 2018, increasing from 22% to 40%. Obesity rates among working-age adults are even higher, so we could see obesity levels among older Americans rise further in the future.”
According to a 2014 study by the Intramural Research Program — a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health—extreme obesity may shorten life expectancy by up to 14 years.
While heredity plays a role in obesity, it isn’t as much of a contributing factor. Rather than being obesity’s sole cause, genes seem to increase the risk of weight gain and interact with other environmental risk factors, such as unhealthy diets and inactive lifestyles. And healthy lifestyles can counteract these genetic effects.
What’s become the typical Western diet-frequent, large meals high in refined grains, red meat, unhealthy fats, and sugary drinks-plays one of the most significant roles in obesity. Foods lacking in the Western diet-whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts-seem to help with weight control and also help prevent chronic disease.
Television watching is a decisive obesity risk factor because exposure to food and beverage advertising can influence what people eat. Physical activity can protect against weight gain, but people aren’t doing enough of it globally. Lack of sleep- another hallmark of the Western lifestyle- is also a risk factor for obesity.
Also, Americans love to get the most bang for their buck — hence the reason behind our enormous portion sizes. Foreigners are often shocked wheU.S.S. dine out in the U.S.S. and see the gigantic platters of food in front of them.
Just how large are our portion sizes? Daily, Americans consume more calories than any other nation on earth. Our average daily calorie intake is 3,770 — nearly double the recommended 2,000.
Larger portions became the norm during the 1970s and 1980s, and the trend has only accelerated over time. The average hamburger is 23% bigger than 20 years ago, while the average snack foods (chips, candies, crackers) are 60% larger.
So while Covid and accidents did claim a lot of lives, the fact remains that thU.S.U.S. population is generally obese and getting worse, which will cut into life expectancy. It’s time to take action instead of ignoring the problem.