Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rising Tide of Obesity in America Continues Unabated

Obesity

"An estimated two-thirds of the entire U.S. adult population is overweight or obese, and an estimated 23 million children fall into one of the two categories."

What does obesity have to do with organ transplantation? you may say. It could lead to heart disease requiring a heart transplant, kidney disease requiring a kidney transplant or liver disease requiring a liver transplant. And the list goes on and on. For a list & photos of 9 types of diseases caused by obesity click here.

From medpage TODAY:

By Emily P. Walker, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 -- Despite efforts to stem the surge of obesity in America, the problem worsened in much of the country last year.

So found the Trust for America's Health, which reported that adult obesity rates increased in 37 states and no single state managed to slim down its total percentage of overweight people.

Nine more states joined the ranks of those with 25% of its citizens classified as obese, bringing the total to 28, reported Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., and colleagues.

The fifth annual F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America report concluded that although many promising policies have emerged to promote physical activity and good nutrition in communities, "they are not being adopted or implemented at levels needed to turn around this health crisis.

im Marks, M.D., a senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a partner in the report, said that "with each and every year we see more and more evidence that our nation's obesity epidemic continues to gain speed and destructive force."

Eleven of the 15 states with the highest obesity rates are in the south, whereas the northeastern and western states continued to have the lowest obesity rates.

The report named Mississippi the most obese state, followed by West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina. The leanest states were Colorado, Hawaii, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. Colorado was the only state where less than 20% of its population was obese -- not far behind at 18.4%.

An estimated two-thirds of the entire U.S. adult population is overweight or obese, and an estimated 23 million children fall into one of the two categories. The report did not measure obesity rates of children.

Alongside the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes rates grew last year. According to the report, four states now have diabetes rates that are above 10%, and all 10 states with the highest rates of diabetes and hypertension are in the south.

According to the report:

  • Adult rates for type 2 diabetes have grown from 5.2% in 1980 to more than 8% now. Approximately 20 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, and another 54 million more have pre-diabetes, putting them at high risk for developing diabetes.

  • After years of declines in heart disease and hypertension through the development of new medical treatments and drugs, these problems are experiencing a resurgence. One in four Americans has some form of heart disease, and one in three Americans has high blood pressure.

  • Obesity and overweight are contributing factors to over 20 chronic diseases, including some cancers, arthritis, and even Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

  • Increasing evidence shows that maternal obesity adds major complications during pregnancy, putting babies at increased risk for preterm birth and infant mortality.

  • Obese children and teenagers are developing diseases that were formerly only seen in adults. For instance, approximately 176,500 individuals under the age of 20 have type 2 diabetes, and two million adolescents ages 12 to 19 have pre-diabetes. Obese and overweight children are more likely to become overweight, and obese adults are on a track for poor health throughout their adult lives.

  • Overall, this generation of children could be the first to have shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.


The culprits for the rising obesity rates are the usual suspects-eating more and exercising less, said Dr. Marks.

While the calorie-exercise equation is easy to grasp, the economic and political factors that feed into overeating prove more nuanced, he said.

For instance, the dearth of grocery stores in poor neighborhoods drives people living in those areas to buy calorie-laden packaged food from convenience stores. Seven of the 10 states with the highest obesity rates are also in the top 10 for highest poverty rates.

The researchers also blamed illogical diet and fitness policies on driving the epidemic.

For instance, despite all 50 states and the District of Columbia having laws about physical education and activity in schools, only four states have any penalties for not complying.

Researchers said that Medicaid programs in 10 states do not cover nutrition assessment and counseling for overweight and obese kids, while 20 states don't cover assessment and consultation for overweight and obese adults.

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