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Obesity In America

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Obesity in America has become an increasingly serious problem in recent years, and it is now rising to an "epidemic" proportion (Update). According to statistics gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of overweight or obese Americans has risen more than 135% in the past 30 years (Greenblatt). A recent study shows that nearly 300,000 Americans died in the year 2000 as a result of poor diet and exercise habits (Update). Today, Obesity is second only to smoking, as the leading cause of preventable disease (Sherman). The effects of obesity on America are being seen more clearly today, and the effects include a variety of consequences ranging from health care to discrimination to lawsuits.

Obesity has garnered a lot of attention as Americans begin to recognize the severity of the situation. In the past few years, obesity has been put in the spotlight over recent lawsuits; geared at holding restaurants and food manufacturers liable for their customers being overweight and obese. In 2002, two obese teens from New York sued McDonalds because they believed the chain's foods contributed to their weight and health problems (Greenblatt). The lawsuit was dismissed in January of 2003.

Another company to be affected by lawsuits is Kraft. In May of 2003, a lawsuit was filed by Stephen Joseph to prevent Oreos from being marketed to elementary school students (Kher 54). A few days later Kraft announced it would be working towards removing the unhealthy Trans fats from its entire product line (Kher 54). Joseph withdrew his suit after hearing the announcement made by Kraft.

Although I would agree with the courts, that food manufacturers and retailers are not ultimately responsible for their customers becoming obese, a person's diet does greatly affect their health. Health consequences of being overweight or obese are numerous; there are over 30 medical conditions that are currently associated with obesity (AOA). Nearly 80 percent of obese Americans have diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, high blood cholesterol levels or osteoarthritis (Salinsky).

The most common medical condition associated with obesity is high blood pressure (Salinsky). Over 75% of all the cases of hypertension are reported to be found as a result of obesity (AOA). An obese person between the ages of twenty and forty-five are five to six times as likely to develop hypertension than their non-obese counterparts (Salinsky).

In addition to the increased blood pressure that is common in obese patients, it has also been found that being "overweight or obese can increase your risk of illness and death associated with coronary heart disease" due to the effect that it had on the blood lipid levels (AOA). In fact, the American Heart Association has now begun to recognize obesity as "a major risk for heart attack" (AOA).

Another major health risk attributed to obesity is diabetes. Up to 90% of people with type 2 diabetes were reported as being overweight or obese (AOA). According to the National Health Policy Forum (NHPF), "Obesity complicates the management of type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, which makes drug treatment for type 2 diabetes less effective". As of 1995, type 2 diabetes treatment costs of the overweight and obese had risen to over $63 billion (Salinsky).

In addition to high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, there are many other health effects that obesity has on the body. Obesity has been known to lower good cholesterol levels and raise the bad ones, according to Wikipedia. It also significantly increases the risk of developing sleep apnea (AOA). Obesity has been found to be related to the development of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (AOA). According to a study by ABC Premium News (Australia), research shows that obesity is a more serious risk factor to proper liver health than alcohol consumption (Obesity...Bigger). Obesity has even been linked to infertility, certain types of cancer, and carpal tunnel syndrome (AOA).

All together, it is estimated that obesity costs the country about $117 Billion each year, as indicated by a study conducted in 2000 by the Surgeon General (Salinsky). Obesity has also been found to decrease the body's proper immune system function (AOA). A study conducted by Dr. Ekman, showed that participants in a program developed to educate them on nutrition, exercise, relaxation, and stress management techniques had taken a significantly lower number of sick days than that of a control group during the year (Ehrhart 13). In 1998, Industry Week published some shocking statistics about the effects of obesity on hospital care; "Moderately overweight people had a 34% longer hospital stay and 17% more outpatient visits than the average person" and "Severely overweight people had a 74% longer hospital stay and 24% more outpatient visits than the average person" (Obesity...Health).

More effects of obesity in America include the psychological and social consequences



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