Obesity in the United States


Obesity is a medical state whereby there is accumulation of excess body fats such that there are adverse effects on an individual’s health resulting to increased health problems and/ or a decreased life expectancy. Obesity is measured by comparing height and weight which is referred to as the Body mass index or BMI. An individual is considered as overweight when the BMI is ranging between 25 kg/m2 and 30 kg/m2 and one is considered to be obese when their

BMI is more than 30kg/m 2.Obesity increases the possibility of an individual to contract numerous diseases such as; osteoarthritis, cancers, type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties when sleeping and heart diseases. The cause for obesity is usually due to lack of physical activity, genetic susceptibility, endocrine disorders, psychiatric illness, medications and excessive intake of calories. Normally, people with obesity require more energy than thin individuals as a result of the need to maintain their increased body mass, this is contrary to the popular belief that they eat less and gain more weight as a result of slow metabolism.

In recent decades, there has been an increased concern on health issues that results from obesity in the United States. Just like in many other industrialized nations, there has been a rapid and consistent increase in the rates of obesity in the United States. However, the rates in the US are among the top worldwide, it is estimated that approximately two thirds of all adults are either obese or overweight with a quarter being obese. According to statistics there has been a steady rise in these rates; in 1997 it was estimated at 19.4%, in 2004 at 24.5%, and in 2007 at 26.6%. Should this pattern continue it is expected that three quarters of all adults in the US will be overweight by 2015 and 41% will be obese. What is more surprising is the indirect economic loss and the direct medical cost associated with obesity. The total cost was estimated to be $ 150.84 billion in 1995 and approximately $ 178 billion in the year 2000.

According to the science daily, the most ideal way to address the issue of obesity in the US is through the establishment of ambitious parks, pleasant hiking trails and a recreation program. However according to recent research, such programs are increasingly declining in numerous

Obesity in the United States

states as a result of shortages in funding

According to another study to address poverty and obesity by Dr. Adam Drewnowski, the diet that the American people consume is what has lead to the high rates of obesity. Dr. Drewnowski suggests that this is evident in the patterns found in the diet of Americans he is of the idea that there is an increased consumption of fats, sugars and calories. He associates that increased in consumption of those food to the trends being experienced in the economy.

The decline of recreation programs and parks as health concerns and obesity rise.

This research was carried out in Oregon; according to this research some of the health issues that obese and over weight individuals face can be addressed by a stronger adherence to opportunities in recreation. Eliminating such recreational programs in an attempt to save money will be counterproductive to the health of the community. Randy Rosenberger, An associate professor at Oregon University stated that there is enough evidence from research which shows that there exists a correlation between recreational opportunities and public health both in state parks and at home. He also argues that from this research active obese people have lower mortality and morbidity as compared to sedentary normal weight people and thus this issue is not just about weight loss. According to these researchers what is urgently needed is an increase in the number of non-motorized trails and recreation facilities. These facilities should also make available information about them and how to use them for the public; in addition such facilities should offer education on the value of being active physically.

However, in as much as there is factual information to support such ideas recreation and park budgets are under constant attack. According to Rosenberger, the aspects health in opportunities for outdoor recreation are not appreciated by the government and are usually funded only if and when there is money left after everything else has been taken care of. For Oregon, these aspects have been given better consideration especially in comparison to other neighbor states as conservations and state parks are allocated lottery funds. States such as Washington has reduced the state parks budget by about 49% with 40 parks facing closure. Similarly, California is faced with cut in its parks budget by 21% and Oregon has a backlog of $39 million in maintenance of state parks.

Obesity in the United States

The research also points out that the problem of recreation is not in essence an urban rural divide, residing in a city doesn’t necessarily mean less activity physically. In Oregon for instance, the larger metropolitan areas have more public physical activities and recreational opportunities that exceed the ones found in the rural areas, coastal and less populated countries. According to studies carried out recently, out of the 36 countries of Oregon 11 are regarded as lacking enough levels of projected and current physical activities.

The results of this research indicates that recreation providers and parks usually play a very crucial role in the well being and health of the citizens of Oregon by offering outdoor recreation facilities like sports and trail facilities. Rosenberger stated that as compared to West Virginia, which has reputation of having the highest levels of sedentary citizens and obesity, Oregon is better off and has better recreational opportunities. In West Virginia there are very few hiking or biking trails and sidewalks, and hence there is no convenient way that people can use for exercise. This led the conversion of a deserted rail line to a hiking trail and research indicated that a quarter of the people who were using it previously were sedentary.

In addition this research revealed that moderate activity levels can impact longevity and health significantly even if there is no loss of weight. It can influence everything from cancer, diabetes to cardiovascular health, it has the potential to reduce depression levels, boost self esteem, and increase vigor and energy. Informational programs should concentrate less on weight loss and more on health and also physicians are required to be more cautious in making recommendations to patient.

It is mandatory for local policy makers and state to become better informed of the health benefits that come with outdoor recreation, this is crucial when dealing with budgetary demands that are competitive so as to set aside some funds for these activities. In conclusion the researchers stated that getting obese and overweight people to become active physically will result in the reduction of health care load on the public and will benefit them. Therefore, the gaps that exist in the supply of recreation are not merely the absence of facilities, though crucial, but also the accessibility, diversity and location of such recreational opportunities.

Obesity in the United States

USDA study on poverty and obesity

According to Dr Drewnowski, the patterns in the diet of Americans are as a result of the trends experienced in the economy of America. Foods that are energy-dense are increasingly becoming cheaper in the US and this has led to many consumers to result to such foods; they include foods that are rich in sugars, fats and starch. In comparison healthier foods are increasingly becoming relatively expensive such healthy foods include; fresh produce, fish and healthier lean meat. As a result Dr. Drewnowski concludes that obesity will go on being a difficulty for the working poor.

From this study, Dr. Drewnowski states that the fat in the US is indeed an economic issue. The highest rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity are prevalent among groups of people faced with the highest rates of poverty. Most people tend to think that obesity as related to genetics but also it is influenced a lot by zip codes and incomes. Drewnowski proposes that the are a multitude of reasons as why families that have low income access to affordable diet less as compared to higher income earners. Such reasons will usually include; work and school schedules, access and transportation to grocery stores, and marketing and food pricing. (Degginger, 2004).

Nevertheless, Drewnowski proposes that a combination of cooking skills, nutrition education, and the use of food assistance programs effectively, is the way forward in the fight against obesity. Through organizations such as the program national research initiative competitive grants, cooperative state research education and extension service a department of agriculture of the US gave out funds to work on the issue of obesity and mainly concentrating on groups that are vulnerable which includes food aid recipients. These organizations are issued with grants by the government in working on these issues, an example is the multi state project that is given the responsibility to investigate the relationship that exist between diet costs, dietary energy density and the actual expenditure on food in two sets of participants; 120 women from four countries in California that are low income earners and 120 middle income women and men in Seattle. The studies are expected to develop a tool that will measure the cost of diet for an individual, by making use of prices at local markets, mean national prices of around 400 types of foods, and the prices of food in California. (Degginger, 2004).

Obesity in the United States

All the participants in the study are expected to submit data on their shopping trends, accessibility and of the foods that are preferred, potential psychological and financial barriers to a change of diet, and whether they are involved in the food assistance programs. Further they have to answer questions on satisfaction with their diet and sensory acceptability which will be based on the thirty food plan that was developed by USDA.

The aim of the study is to formulate ways through which people can access dietary advice that is individualized and which takes into account usual eating habits financial limitations and food preferences. Dr. Drewnowski predicts that in future there will be a computer model that will be instrumental in developing diets that are better and affordable. The model is expected to minimize costs of diet, maximize palatability and optimize nutrient density. This will go a long way in enabling low income earners to minimize their food cost and at the same time get high quality food and this is seen as the strategy to use in dealing with the issue of obesity that is mainly prevalent among disadvantaged groups.

According to information on the USA today, diets on wait loss are really expensive to the average citizen. For instance the cost of Atkins diet is two times what is spent on food by an average American.

Dr Drewnowski concludes by acknowledging the fact that there is adequate information on which foods are healthy and which are not, but accessibility and affordability is what lacks. Therefore by concentrating on the cost of healthy foods will be helpful in designing nutrition programs and policies that are better and healthier.

Possible solutions to the problem of obesity in the United  States

Obesity in the United States

The two main solutions to the problem of obesity consists of physical exercise and dieting. A combination of the two methods can be very effective in dealing with obesity, diet programs usually lead to loss of weight over a short period of time, however efforts to maintain this weight will not be effective if an individual does not engage in regular exercise and permanently adopt a low calorie diet in that individual’s lifestyle. The rates of success in maintaining weight loss in the long term are very low and usually range between 2% and 20%. Studies have established that weight loss has a significant benefit to the rates of mortality in some populations. In a study carried out on women with weight problems, found out that any amount of intentional weight loss could result in a reduction of the mortality rate by 20%. In women who are obese but without any weight related problems, an approximated weight loss of about 9kgs could result to a reduction in mortality rate of about 25%. According to a recent review, it came to the conclusion that some subgroups for instance women or individuals with type 2 diabetes generally tend to depict long term advantages in all cause mortality, however outcomes for men do not improve with weight loss.


There are normally four categories of diets that are important when considering weight loss they include; low carbohydrate, very low calorie, low fat and low calorie. From a meta-analysis of 6 arbitrary controlled trails found out that there is no big difference between some of the main types of diet namely low fat, low carbohydrate and low calorie, all studies on these diets showed a weight loss of about 2 to 4 kg. Regardless of the emphasized macronutrients the three types of diets resulted in similar weight loss. On average very low calorie foods usually supply the body with about 200 to 800 kcal/day, limiting calories from both carbohydrates and fats and at the same time maintaining the intake of proteins. Such foods usually puts the body to starvation and generate a weekly average weight loss of between 1.5 and 2.5 kgs. The use of such diets is not generally recommended this is because they are linked with side effects that are adverse like electrolyte imbalance, the risk of gout and loss of lean muscle mass. People under such diets should be under close monitoring by a physician so as to prevent any complications that can arise.

In the US, anti obesity advocates and parents have banned some foods in schools such foods include; junk foods, candy and sodas from cafeterias and vending machines. Some state legislators have put up restrictions on some diets in an attempt to reduce obesity. For example,

Obesity in the United States

in 2003 California legislators enacted laws that banned the selling of drinks and snacks from machine dispensers in elementary schools. In 2009 the state of California also prohibited the sale of sodas to high schools, the state promised to increase the amount of funding to such schools in an attempt to compensate the school from the decreased revenue. In 2005, the general assembly of Connecticut passed a similar law however it was rejected by the governor at that time; he argued that the legislation diluted the responsibility and control of parents on their children. In 2006, companies such as PepsiCo, Cadbury Schweppes and Coca Cola voluntarily agreed to ban the sale of all beverages and high calorie drinks with 8, 10, and 12 once containers in high, middle and elementary schools. Organizations such as HealthCorps focus on educating the public on eating healthy foods and support food choices that are healthy in an attempt to fight obesity.

Physical exercise

Muscles usually consume energy that is gotten from glycogen and fat, as the leg muscles are large running, cycling and walking are the most effective methods through which a person can reduce the amount of body fat. Such exercises lead to weight loss because the affect the macronutrient balance. Simple and moderate exercises such as a walk have the potential to reduce weight this is because they cause a shift to the increased use of fat as fuel. According to the America heart association, for one to maintain proper health an individual should exercise for a minimum of 300 minutes for at least 5 days a week. The Cochrane collaboration performed a Meta-analysis of about 43 randomized trials that were controlled and established that the use of exercise only limited the amount of weight one can loose. However when one combines diet and exercise, it led to a 1 kg loss of weight over the use of diet alone, in contrast a 1.5 kg weight loss was realized with the use of more exercise. In as much as exercises conducted by the general public have modest effects, intense exercises have the potential to reduce weight substantially. For instance a 20 week military basic training with no restrictions on diet can result in the loss of about 12.5 kgs by recruits. For one to maintain the loss of weight, that individual should engage in high level physical activities, on average engaging in 18 weeks of physical activity that is increased by 27% can result in the decrease of 0.38 in BMI.

The use of stairs as opposed to lifts has been campaigned for by most communities as it is effective in increasing the level of exercise by the public. For instance in Columbia and specifically the city of Bogota puts barriers on 70 miles road on holidays and Sundays so as to make it easier for the public to exercise. Such zones for pedestrians are established in an attempt to fight chronic diseases such as obesity.

Obesity in the United States


It is evident that in the recent decades that there has been an increase in concern over health problems that arise due to obesity in the United States. Just like in many other industrialized nations, there has been a rapid and consistent increase in the rates of obesity in the United States. According to a study carried out in Oregon, the increase in obesity has been as a result of the decline in recreation programs and parks as health concerns and obesity rise. Another study by USDA on poverty and obesity indicates that the increase in obesity has been as a result of the patterns in the diet of Americans which are influenced by the trends experienced in the economy of America. In trying to combat obesity one can use dieting or physical exercises but according to studies a combination of both has been found to be more effective.


Oregon state university (2010): Parks and recreation programs as obesity, health concerns rise. Science daily. Retrieved on 18th February 18, 2010 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/ 2010/01/100115112121.htm

February 18, 2010 from http://www.uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=4798

Obesity in the United States