Sunday, December 11, 2011

Obesity Is On The Rise by Wolf Krammel

Over the past 100 years the United States has experienced a trend of gradually increasing obesity. Currently 55% of adult Americans are classified as overweight or obese, suggesting that weight problems are reaching epidemic proportions. Women tend to weigh more than their male counterparts and women aged 50-60 have the greatest prevalence of obesity, as compared to women aged 20 - 30 with the lowest rates, thus affirming the notion that we tend to gain weight as we age. Currently, it is estimated that obesity in children is as high as 25%. Thirty percent of Americans are technically obese, as compared to in England, where there is an average of 16% obesity. The Journal of the Medical Association recently reported that the prevalence of obesity has increased by 49% between 1991 and 1998. These statistics are alarming and indicate the need for a broad scale public effort to overcome deep-rooted structural and cultural impediments that are hindering individuals from leading healthy lives. Furthermore, major shifts in personal behavior are required to offset the potential health risks associated with this phenomenon.

For those of us in Western countries, at least, innovations in the past century, and particularly just in the past few decades, has provided a plentiful food supply and life changing technologies, ranging from cars to computers, that are the hallmark of our age. Yet, apart from their remarkable benefits, these advances enable or induce us to lead less physically active lives. As a result, we may be the first broad scale society in human history to routinely consume more calories in our daily diets than we spend in our daily activities.

Today, our food is processed and stripped of the essential nutrients and fiber that once helped our ancestors to have energy, stay lean and healthy. Food processing strips vitamins, minerals, and fiber from food, and typically adds fat (saturated), sugar, and salt. Foods characterized as "whole" or "natural" have not been processed, and retain high levels of nutrients that are essential for normal body functioning and feelings of well being. The types of foods usually associated with 'whole foods' include whole grains, legumes (beans), fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and soy products (soybeans, tofu, miso, tempeh).

The consequences of this imbalance are now becoming dramatically apparent. America is experiencing an obesity epidemic that puts the population at increasing risk for heart problems and other debilitating and life threatening diseases including diabetes, arthritis, and some cancers. Most interestingly, research suggests that most if not all of these diseases are largely preventable! Can you guess why? You got it, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise, two of the greatest weapons in the fight against obesity and its associated diseases states, will help you to live a healthier and longer life.