The obesity epidemic has affected the United States for more than 30 years, and unfortunately, it only seems to be getting worse. Despite millions of dollars invested in clinical care, research, and the development of programs designed to counteract the issue, more American citizens are overweight and obese than at any other time in history. In addition, projections by the Trust for America’s Health estimate that 44% of Americans will be obese by 2030; similarly, the CDC estimates that the number will include 42% of adults.
Countless industries, foundations, government agencies, and societies have provided millions of dollars in funding supporting clinical trials, research, studies, and the development of devices and drugs of all kinds in an attempt to finally stem the tide of the epidemic. It isn’t clear exactly why the obesity epidemic is worsening; however, people point to everything from the stress of today’s society to the artificial ingredients in our foods as the cause.
38% of U.S. adults are obese, and 17% of teenagers are, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Someone is defined as being obese when he or she has a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30. People are considered overweight when that number reaches 25. A BMI calculator can be found here on the National Institutes of Health website. Obesity in children is measured in another manner: If a child weighs more than 95% of children in his or her age and height bracket, he or she is considered obese.
In terms of numbers, that’s nearly 78 million adults and 13 million children in the USA who are overweight. It’s more than just having someone cut calories and move more, says Dr. Donna H. Ryan, who is co-chair of the committee that wrote Louisiana State University’s obesity guidelines recently. The body’s regulation of food is highly complex; digestive organs send signals to the brain to tell it that a person is full and to stop eating. There is another system, she states, that promotes food intake – such as when you smell or see appealing food, you can be triggered to want to eat, even if you aren’t actually hungry.
Everything from society’s cues to stress, mildly low blood sugar, and even boredom can contribute to people eating too much. There is decreased physical demand for many of today’s jobs, so we aren’t moving as much. Delicious and affordable foods are more widely available, and a huge increase in screen time (TVs, computers, cell phones, etc.) doesn’t help, either!
Speaking of food being more widely available, it’s also served in much larger portions than ever before. Dining out in such busy times almost seems like a requirement for many people. The average restaurant meal today is four times larger than in the 1950s! They also include more sugary drinks, up to 42 ounces today from the 7 ounces usually served in the ‘50s.
With so much still not understood regarding obesity and all it entails, it’s easy for many people who are trying to lose weight to become discouraged. However, it’s important to keep in mind that advancements and new findings are uncovered every day, and we haven’t lost the fight against obesity yet!