Obesity is a public health problem

Illustration depicting a road traffic sign with an obesity concept. Blue sky background.

(Washington Post) Obesity turned out to be a major risk factor for covid hospitalization and death, especially non-elderly. According to the CDC, it is linked to impaired immune function and decreased lung capacity; it can make ventilation more difficult. Once again, obesity indicates that it’s killing us.

The United States’ national average body-mass index ranks near the heaviest among all countries. If instead, we were just average — roughly the level of Denmark — the death rate would have been 19.5 percent lower between Jan. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, the study’s lead author, Thomas J. Bollyky of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me in an interview. That is, some 157,000 fewer people would have died during those 21 months. The toll now stands at just over 900,000.

Of the 16 states with adult obesity rates 35 percent or higher, 10 — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas — rank in the top 20 for age-adjusted per capita covid death rates, according to Bioinformatics CRO, a consulting firm.

Washington Post

According to research compiled by the School of Public Health and Health Services, the estimated cost of obesity in the United States is somewhere between $147 billion and $210 billion a year. Individuals bear some of these costs in medical expenses and lost wages, averaging $4,879 for women and $2,646 for men. But the rest is shouldered by employers, insurance companies, and the government. For example, obesity is responsible for $61.8 billion in Medicare and Medicaid spending annually.

 A recent study done by the American Psychological Association tells us that in 2018, 42.4 percent of the population was obese. Now it seems that we have hit 50 percent a full nine years earlier than previous predictions. This is not a harmless statistic. According to the NIH, obesity-related illness kills 325,000 Americans every year, which means eating ourselves to death. But what is it we are eating? It isn’t real food; it is the packaged, highly refined, chemically-laden products marketed to us as “food” that is killing us and will continue to do so until we reframe what is being perpetrated on consumers in terms of addiction.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average American ate almost 20% more calories in the year 2000 than they did in 1983, thanks, in part, to a boom in meat consumption. Today, each American puts away an average of 195lbs of meat every year, compared to just 138lbs in the 1950s. Consumption of added fats also shot up by around two-thirds over the same period, and grain consumption rose 45% since 1970.

Inactivity is the New Normal

Lack of exercise is a primary culprit in the obesity epidemic. It’s been decades since most Americans worked in fields and on factory floors; a far greater majority of us are sitting throughout our workday. This means less exercise each day. According to one study, only 20% of today’s jobs require at least moderate physical activity instead of 50% of employment in 1960. Other research suggests Americans burn 120 to 140 fewer calories a day than they did 50 years ago. Add this to the higher amount of calories we are packing in, and we get a perfect recipe for weight gain.

So how do we respond?

There is currently a movement underway to give cards to nurses at the physician’s office so that patients aren’t weighed. Why? Because seeing your weight makes you feel bad. Here’s the news: It should!

I’ve written many times on this site about the dangers of obesity and the refusal of HCPs, insurers, and the government’s refusal to address the issue. I understand that there are many reasons for obesity, from psychological to lifestyle, but continuing to do nothing is not an option.