The Rising Obesity Tide

Obesity continues to plague the U.S., with nine states now reporting that more than 30% of their population is obese. “In 2007, only three states reported an increased prevalence of obesity above 30 percent — Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi,” said Dr. William Dietz, director of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity at the CDC. “Now, there are nine states that exceed [that mark]: Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.” Furthermore, no U.S. States have managed to lower obesity rates to 15 percent. (HT: Seth Mangan) [%comments]


david

Look no further than the poverty levels - at least in this country, wherever you have below-median incomes, you will be sure to find a prevalence of sub-par food choices and a resulting effect on population weight. A glaring contrast to today's front-page article on India's starving poor...

ElvisInMiami

Is this raw numbers or adjusted for inflation? If the government was involved we would allow our cut off point for obese to be adjusted to inflation (which would almost guarantee it would always go up)

Seriously on the obesity issue there are so many factors involved. 30 years ago we had tv and fast food, yet the numbers were not so large. I think a lot of the problem is we grow up in a society where we lead by example and don't make use of our education system to better us as humans.

It seems like the generation growing up in the 50's thought it was good to watch TV every night and go to the drive in after school and on weekends. Also there was a large volume of new products hitting the market (mostly food related) Add in diet fads which generate new foods. Now take these same people who grew up to what seems moderately healthy and see how they influence younger peers and their own children. Why not give kids what they want and let them watch all these great shows on tv. It is only stuff they wished they had when they were kids and why should their kids and grand kids be deprived.

If parents and grandparents cannot lead by example, provide restraint and question the health value of daily activities, then how are children today going to lead healthy lives?

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ElvisInMiami

Another issue we have is lack of education. People are easily influenced by what they can easily read or hear. For example I am in the grocery store and kids ask their parents if something is healthy and I hear yes/no about 50/50. That is great, but when I hear yes, I look at what qualifies and it is really just junk food. The best example is fruit juice (or the related chewy animal looking things.) These products say "real juice", "organic", "low sugar" in big print. When you read the ingredient list and nutritional values it is only slightly different from the one that got a NO from the parents.

There is little education in public school that really teaches kids what they are consuming. The few classes that children do get exposure to usually address the basic food groups, the food pyramid and what you "should" be consuming. There is no education that helps educate kids to make better choices and convey their learnings to the parents.

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Annie

Good news for the CDC and gov't Health department, that just means more money for them, which was their plan all along. Even the food pyramid (paid for by food lobbyists) you see in schools is designed to instill a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits in our children (meat, milk, bread, and cheese are why we are so unhealthy and yet we've been brainwashed into thinking these foods are good for us!)

"Feed them cheap, fake food made by corporations = myrid of health problems = a lifetime of money pouring in to our coffers."

The problem with health education in the US is that they try to cure the disease rather than prevent it in the first place.

When will Americans wake up and realize that the government is not here to help or protect us but to grab as much power and money from us as possible? It's the same with either a Democrat or Republican in office. The end result is the same. Repeat after me:

THE.US.GOVERNMENT.DOES.NOT.CARE.ABOUT.ITS.CITIZENS.THEY.ONLY.WANT.YOUR.MONEY.AND.MORE.POWER.GRABBING

Read this-

"How the Government Encourages Obesity: The High Fructose Corn Syrup Story"
http://obrag.org/?p=3292

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EarlW

How do they determine 'obesity'. Do they use the same calculation as poverty?
There will always be a proportion of the population which is over or under the average and this changes depending on access to food and other variables.

Why do we hear more about the American "Obesity Epidemic" than the African "Undernutrition Epidemic".

It must be the same people who didn't drink their "eight glasses of water every day".

Why do you waste space and time on these useless pieces? How about an analysis of the obesity calculations?

Joe

Of course, the fact that they redefined a lower BMI as "obese" couldn't have anything to do with the increase in those numbers, could it?

http://www.obesitymyths.com/myth1.3.htm

This would be a good Freakonomics topic, as it would be nice to see a disinterested third party take a look at the numbers. Rather than uncritically repeating them.

Geoffrey

There are certainly a number of factors that go into the obesity issue, but two that the government directly contribute to are the Food Pyramid and grain subsidies. We are the first generation that has experienced the effects of a low fat, high carb diet starting in the womb, and we are only now just starting to see the effects of this trend.

While the proper human diet movement is growing in popularity, grass fed, pastured meat is still mostly inaccessible to the majority of the population, as a country we are totally misinformed from the top down as to what is good for us. Reversing this trend will require that we first and foremost, kill off all grain subsidies cold turkey, and second, modify the food pyramid to reflect our pre-agriculture, evolutionary experience.

savvysavingbytes

Instrumental in banning junk food from English schools, Jamie Oliver came to the fattest city in the USA in April in an uphill battle to turn the tide of the fattening, unhealthy food the schools were feeding their children.This occurred in a West Virginia town where the purchase of double-wide coffins to accommodate obese citizens was common place.

http://savvysavingbytes.com/2010/04/high-five-to-jamie-olivers-food-revolution/

L Nettles

This is the most important problem for our benevolent rulers.
Food and Fuel too cheap, government must raise prices.
Assign everyone a treadmill tied to the grid, make them produce their quota of power, then if they have any time left they can separate recyclables

Andrew Simpson

As someone who has spent half of my life living in the West and half in the South. I have to wonder if climate plays some role in the distribution of cases of obesity. The states which have the highest incidence of obesity, those in the interior South, seem to have very hot and humid weather in the Summer and surprisingly cold weather in the winter and high levels of precipitation. States like New Mexico and Montana which have similar income levels to the states in the South, nonetheless, have much lower levels of obesity. These states in general have climates which I would think are generally more suitable for outdoor activities. These states also have a more varied topography, which means that even if the weather is too hot or cold in your immediate location, it is not difficult to find a more suitable place by going up into the mountains or down to a lower elevation. I find myself doing a lot less outside now that I am living in Atlanta than when I was living in California, Washington or Colorado.

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Bobby G

I really think obesity is a problem in 90% of the cases with 1) self control and 2) parenting. Yes I understand unhealthy food is cheaper but how does that make you eat more of it? Really. You can't get obese if you portion control. If you're poor, guess what, cutting back means you pay less on food! Your kids say they're hungry? Well you are their parent so if they don't know what's good for them it's up to you to decide for them.

The problem with all of this is as another poster mentioned: since we're all sharing health care costs now, people responsible about their health are going to have to pay for the people irresponsible about their health. Is this really going to make people become more responsible? Absolutely not, if anything it destroys part of the incentive to be healthy... why stay healthy when I can be unhealthy and get my health care paid for by other people (taxpayers)?

Government debauchery aside, everyone should have access to a floor to do exercises (push ups, crunches, squats are a start), probably a place to go for a run (up and down your own stairs? laps around your front lawn? yes you look ridiculous but you will look less obese later... probably worth it), and you don't have to keep eating all that food. Have some self control and obesity should be something easy to manage. I'm fit and it's not genes... I work hard at it.

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Eric

Point finger all we wish, obesity is a long term caloric imbalance from over eating and/or insufficient exercise ( barring true medical disorders ). Americans are also fixated on the food portion of the equation with this insane notion that "healthier" foods with fix the problem, wake up, it's not the food it's the calories.

If you want a canary in the coal mine it's the teenagers. The next generation packing on pounds while at their *lifetime peak* metabolic rate. It should really scare people how children with BMR's of upwards of 3000 calories a day are putting on weight, just wait till they are in their late 20's and their BMR drops like a stone and their diet does not change.

cbp

Sorry if this sounds rude, but I just wanted to say to the conspiracy theorists here, as an outsider coming to America - you guys are fat.
And it's not the government, and it's not that they lowered the BMI - it's the food that you eat. This is screamingly obvious to everyone that visits your country, and when you ask someone how was their trip to America, they invariably remark that the food portions are huge and unhealthy, and that the effects can be seen just by walking down the street.

Brooks

@Geoffrey

Hit the nail on the head. The USDA Food Pyramid is horrible. Other than saying sugar is bad, it is completely wrong. Making grains the foundation of a diet leads to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It is mind boggling that all the "experts" still don't realize that starches and sugars are the same thing once metabolized, and chronic high blood sugar leads to the diseases mentioned above. High carb diets are killing thousands of people a year now, but the experts continue to recommend them. Also, the crusade against saturated fat and cholesterol is completely without merit. It's unfortunate that doctors are not scientists and they blindly follow the high-carb/low-fat dogma. It is killing so many people, it is terribly upsetting. High-carb/low-fat diets did not exist before the advent of agriculture, i.e. 99% of human existence. Eat a high-carb/low-fat diet at your own peril.

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Glen Flower

This of course is due to the mythical global warming - the prevalence of mostly South Easterly states no doubt correlates to the increased frequency and fortitude of hurricanes, thus keeping kids inside due to the winds themselves and also the fear that this undoubtedly induces. When added to the daily climate of terror hyped by the media this further keeps kids off the streets - they smell this fear in their parents who urge them to stay indoors.

The computer games manufacturers (ersatz babysitters) have latched onto this point and have made more addictive games that keep kids longer on couches - a quantifiable though possibly fluke side effect of this being that this increases the girth and lowers the center of gravity of these kids, thus making them more stable in hurricanes.

Erol

This is an economics blog, right? So why is it no one seems to look at the jobs/employment link to obesity?

It's simple: Corporations use corn, wheat, soy, to sell more products. This fattens up people who then become sick providing more jobs in sick care, insurance, even supplements and prevention. As baby bloomers age, the new bulge of consumption will be sick care and their are massive profits to be made by corporations.

The government is NOT making us sick or profiting. WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT silly! If our government really did the right thing and educated children in school to eat healthy, it would kill jobs. Republicans and unions would yell "job killer" to any policy. It's the same reason we don't stop alcohol and tobacco. Our economy runs on addictions that fuel jobs.

Stop blaming the government for everything. We are he government. Our elected officials on both sides know we want jobs and most don't really care if their neighbor is killed. Until economist think of another way to have jobs other than fueling addiction & sickness, it won't change. Voters won't let is change.

We are consumers & voters now, not "citizens". We demand consumption and jobs. What is the ECONOMIC answer to the flow of money and jobs, growth? How do we have full employment AND healthy citizens?

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nancynancy

Here are a few reasons for the increase in obesity: processed foods, all you can eat buffets, fast food, supersized portions, two career couples, the fat acceptance movement, increased variety of plus sized clothes, the decline of pedestrian safety,

Dick

Lots of things have changed, but one factor that I never see mentioned is the drop in smoking over the past thirty years. The myth says that if you're a smoker, you can quit without gaining weight. The fact is that smokers are compulsive by nature, and without a cigarette in their mouth, they have to be munching on something. I'm not proposing that we encourage smoking ("Reach for a Lucky instead of a treat") but it's interesting to see how we ignore the unintended consequences of the changes we encourage.

Seth Mangan

Although less important, the aptonym here is pretty humorous, Dr. Dietz, director of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity at the CDC.

Rick

I enjoy a nice corn fed steak. I eat a 4-6 ounce one cooked at home instead of the 12-16 ounce ribeye usually served in restaurants. In Texas where I live chicken fried steak is a popular menu choice. The popular enticement is that it is so big it won't fit on the plate. I can get three meals on the ones served. Whether grass fed, corn fed, or algae fed controlling the amount of caloric intake is the key. It's just like financial management in reverse. Financial: Don
t spend more than you make. Food: Don't consume more than you spend.