Over the past 40 years the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. population has been increasing at an alarming rate. The Journal of the American Medical Association sited the results of a study conducted in 2000 that was compared to a similar study conducted from 1988 to 1994 among 4115 men and women. The results showed that 64.5% of Americans were found to be overweight, 30.5% were obese, and extreme obesity was found in 4.7% in 2000 compared to 55.9% of adults were overweight, 22.9% were obese, and 2.7% were extremely obese during the 1988 to 1994 survey. The CDC reported that the average weight for men 20-74 years old has increased from 166 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002, while the average weight for females in the same age group increased from 140 pounds in 1960 to 164 pounds in 2002. Over the last forty years Americans have over-indulged and have put themselves in a troubling position.
With the advancement in technology and the growth of popular fast food chains Americans are beginning to struggle with the consequences of their actions. The health of Americans has begun to slowly deteriorate allocating for a decreased quality of life at an earlier age. Due to the increased prevalence of obesity among Americans there has been an increase in diabetes, heart disease, and kidney failure. This increase costs the U.S. approximately $117 billion per year in healthcare costs.
There are many issues that contribute to the obesity increase within America:
First, there is an epidemiological reason as to why obesity has increased among Americans. At the beginning of the century, life expectancy was about half of what it is now, and most deaths resulted from infectious diseases such as cholera and influenza. With the conquest of most of these diseases in the industrialized world, along with public health measures, the major health threats today are degenerative diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer, and stroke. During the era of infectious diseases, the consequences that resulted between behaviors and illness were generally short. The behaviors related to degenerative diseases are often separated by decades, making the consequences of our actions seem too far off to pose a threat in the here and now.
Second, there is an abundance of food. We as people are built to eat food when it becomes available. We are now faced with a surplus, in both amount and variety, but unfortunately Americans do not embrace variety as they should. Due to this, Americans tend to become complacent and eat the same foods everyday.
Third, there are large reductions in overall activity. Modern technology has reduced the amount of physical effort that most people need to earn a living. Of course, it's also provided a wide variety of labor-saving devices, as well as forms of entertainment that require no physical effort. So we're eating more and moving less -- a sure recipe for weight gain. The invention of the telephone, the remote control, and the car has drastically reduced the amount of energy needed to perform everyday tasks. This has contributed to the inevitable weight gain that comes with being inactive.
Fourth, the general public is not educated to understand risks, benefits, nutrition or the nature of science as it relates to weight loss. All of these aspects are critical for acting judicious in the face of all the risk information Americans are exposed to. Americans are dealt a hefty load of information regarding nutrition and the benefits of exercising but the information becomes ineffective because of Americans inability to comprehend the material. This unfortunately leads to complacency and ambivalence toward nutrition and exercise.
"Obesity is a complex, multifactorial chronic disease that develops from the interaction of genotype and the environment. Our understanding of how and why obesity develops is incomplete, but involves the integration social, behavioral, cultural, physiological, metabolic, and genetic factors." - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services