QUICK READ: Buried in recent headlines is the sobering fact that obesity is still on the rise in the United States. This year it’s estimated that 300,000 people will die from obesity-related health conditions. Until we have the courage to communicate to the public the dangers of obesity we have failed patients and ourselves.
In 1985, no state had an obesity rate higher than 15 percent. In 2016, five states had rates over 35 percent. Obesity is a grave public health threat, more serious even than tCOVID-19. It is linked to chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Obesity accounts for 18 percent of deaths among Americans ages 40 to 85, according to a 2013 study challenging the prevailing wisdom among scientists, which had placed the rate at around 5 percent. This means obesity is comparable to cigarette smoking as a public health hazard; smoking kills one of five Americans and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
Why isn’t the medical establishment doing anything about it? Because they’re afraid of the truth.
Every physician should be required to inform patients if they are obese and strongly recommend a program to change behaviors. Insurers should charge obese patients more in healthcare premiums and require that obese customers meet with a regifted dietician.
On June 25th the CDC said that younger obese Americans were at higher risk for COVID-19. That face was largely ignored by the media. In America, because of the prevalence of obesity and other medical conditions, many younger people do have pre-existing conditions. In fact, in many places younger people are driving the surge in cases.
We’re addicted to sugar
Sugary drink consumption by children and teens is a significant public health concern. with teens and young adults consuming more sugary drinks than other age groups.
Consumption is also higher among low-income and Black non-Hispanic and Mexican- American youth, raising additional concerns about health disparities affecting low-income and communities of color. In recent years, youth consumption of regular soda and sugary drinks in total have declined, but sports drink and energy drink consumption has increased. Beverage companies have pledged to reduce beverage calories and increase demand for lower-calorie drinks.
More than one-half of the $1.04 billion in sugary drink ad expenditures promoted regular soda and soda brands ($586 million), a 41% increase over 2013.
- PepsiCo was responsible for 38% of all sugary drink advertising spending and sugary drink TV ads viewed by children, and 41% of TV ads viewed by teens in 2018. PepsiCo’s sugary drink advertising spending increased by 28% from 2013 to 2018.
- Coca-Cola was responsible for 31% of sugary drink advertising spending, 23% of TV ads sugary drink advertising increased by 81%.
- Four brands each spent more than $100 million to advertise sugary drinks in 2018: Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, and Mtn Dew.
We need to fight the sugar industry..
- States and localities should enact excise taxes on sugary drinks and invest the resulting revenue in community-defined programs and services to reduce health and socioeconomic disparities.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should establish regulations to address unclear labeling practices, such as requiring disclosures of added sugars, low-calorie sweeteners, juice, and caffeine content on the front of product packages.
- States and local municipalities should prohibit the sales of energy drinks and shots to children under age 18 and require they be placed in low-visibility locations (such as behind counters).
Lost in all this, of course, is the personal behavior of consumers. Yesterday at the market I saw an obese woman buying three cases of sugary soda along with ice cream and other sugar bombs. She is costing me a lot of money.
COVID-19 in a serious health issue but it pails in comparison to the obesity but until our industry, politicians, and insurers are willing to bring it to the forefront of healthcare discussions we will continue to complain about healthcare costs.