Obesity: Another Inconvenient Truth

The 29 Mar 07 Wall Street Journal reports World Health Organization (WHO) figures that indicate obesity is only getting worse in the States, and around the world. Estimated obesity rates for people aged 15 and older have grown since 2002:

  • United States. 2002: 34.9%. 2005: 39.2%.
  • UK. 2002: 20.0%. 2005: 22.9%
  • Germany. 2002: 19.5%. 2005: 20.7%.
  • France. 2002: 6.6%. 2005: 7.2%.
  • China. 2002: 1.3%. 2005: 1.7%.
  • Japan. 2002: 1.5%. 2005: 1.6%.

As you may recall, I’ve lived in Japan and as I’ve argued previously, it’s no surprise that with the deeply engrained eating habits that culture has, no one is obese. Upon my return to the States after several years in Japan, the culture shock was in some ways greater than when I left: T.G.I. Friday’s, Don Pablo’s, Outback, are only a handful of the “typical” mainstream American cuisine that lard-up Americans’ vessels and set them inexorably on the path of chunkiness.

I’ve heard many similar comments from others who’ve spent time overseas, whether in the military service or on private business, and who have partaken eagerly in the different culinary lifestyle over there. American food is greasy, greasy, greasy, and aside from Russian cuisine, one of the unhealthiest “cultural” eating “habits” there is.

The 2005 results of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey are also probably unsurpising, reflecting 2005 U.S. obesity rates in the map below:

Southern states, known as states with particularly unhealthy eating habits, exhibit the highest rates of obesity. Homes of hearty but lardy cuisine, Louisiana (Jambalaya, fried Beignets), and Mississippi (Southern Fried Chicken, Fried Green Tomatoes, Mississippi Mud Cake), along with West Virginia, are the worst, with 30 – 34% of the population obese. In short, for a 5’9″ person, 203 lbs or a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher would be obese; the CDC website further defines “obese” for those of you who aren’t sure whether you, or someone you care about, falls into the category.

Bottom line, this reflects badly on Americans and as nearly 1/3 of Americans are obese and the number continues to grow, accoriding to the 2005 WHO study, Americans as a society need to have a conversation about what we need to teach our children about food and exercise, and what we need to do about this health epidemic. Obesity is tied to individual mobility and worker productivity, longevity, strain on the nation’s health care system, and numerous other factors that have inevitable impact on the nation’s economy. Apart from being a moral issue, this is a serious societal issue that needs to be addressed quickly.

After watching the critically important An Inconvenient Truth, grab another hot issue and teach yourself about this scourge that’s afflicting 1 in 3 Americans.

“Gymnastic for the body, and philosophy for the soul.” Socrates.

Lime

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3 Comments

Filed under Culture, Exercise, Health, Personal, Science

3 responses to “Obesity: Another Inconvenient Truth

  1. waistloss

    One thing that these surveys never seem to take into consideration is that it is more expensive to eat healthy. Fish is more expensive than pork or ground beef. Lean, skinless chicken breast is more expensive than chicken nuggets. Healthier food just costs more. Look at the states that are the most obese. They are also some of the poorest states.

    When someone opens a fast food place where you can get chicken breast, brown rice and broccoli (and make it tasty) for the price of a happy meal and you will see the obesity rate go down.

  2. Waistloss,

    I hear your argument, and I wonder how you respond to the following:

    USDA reports that “”Among the 69 forms of fruits and 85 forms of vegetables included in the analysis, more than half were estimated to cost 25 cents or less per serving in 1999, and 86 percent of all vegetables and 78 percent of all fruit cost less than 50 cents a serving. That’s 127 different ways to eat a serving of fruits and vegetables for less than the price of a 3-ounce candy bar.”

    In 2005, the Washington Post columnist Sally Squires reported that for about $5.00 a day, one could obtain a full day’s worth of oatmeal, milk, fresh fruit, beans, rice, whole grain and wheat bread, a large salad and a cup of peas — about the price of one fast-food meal.

    Michael Jacobsen, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, reported that the most healthy foods are often the least expensive: witness potatoes, beans, and rice.

    I don’t know how any of this applies to your locale — and I’m very interested. I myself find the Japanese diet to be the pinnacle of healthy eating, and I can’t get enough of it. Personally, I suggest The Okinawa Program, although I add that it’s a very Americanized (ie, more palatable to Americans) version of the true thing. I personally prefer the original… but I wonder how, pricewise, this goes over in your area. Lots of tofu, pork, and vegetables. Check it out here: The Okinawa Program.

    Lime

  3. Fredegar

    American food is greasy, greasy, greasy, and aside from Russian cuisine, one of the unhealthiest “cultural” eating “habits” there is

    I think the Scots would have a bone to pick with this. Haggis, anyone?

    In 2005, the Washington Post columnist Sally Squires reported that for about $5.00 a day, one could obtain a full day’s worth of oatmeal, milk, fresh fruit, beans, rice, whole grain and wheat bread, a large salad and a cup of peas — about the price of one fast-food meal.

    Presumably we’re talking about individual ingredients. You have to cook the beans and rice, prepare the salad, peel the fruit, not to mention the time spent purchasing the items (the local supermarket here has only a so-so produce section). All that takes a lot of time. Many poor parents are working two jobs and don’t have (or don’t want to take) an hour to make dinner. They want something fast so they can relax before they have to go to bed, or so they have time to help the kids with homework.

    That’s not the only, or maybe even the most important, reason of course, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.

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