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Obesity Essay

29 Aug 2016Health Essays

Obesity in the United States

Obesity is a state in which body fat accumulates excessively to a degree that affects health negatively. Commonly, it is referred to as body mass index (BMI) of exactly thirty kilograms per meter square (30kg/m2). Excess body weight is linked to several diseases such as obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus type 2, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The disease has massively reduced life expectancy of a larger global population. Primarily, obesity is treated through physical exercise, bariatric surgery, anti obesity drugs and dietary considerations. The root cause of obesity is highly linked to psychiatric illness, genetics, lack of physical activity, excessive calorific intake and genetic susceptibility (Kovner, 2005, p.10).

In the past twenty years, obesity in the United States has significantly increased, with nine million children and over sixty million adults being obese. In America, the disease has spread potentially because of energy imbalance as a result of excess consumption of calories without matching physical exercise. In the state, the prevalence of the disease is associated with environment and human behavior. In line with diabetes, excess weight in the United States has led to other health problems such as respiratory complications, hypertension, heart diseases, gall bladder diseases, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and diabetes. America has defined many ways through which a patient can be classified as obese. The nation’s health institutions take into account the body mass index as the best and first prioritized measure. BMI explores the height and weight of patients and therefore indicate their body masses.

Through several research works, BMI has been classified as a good way to determine the amount of fat in one's body. The other ways which can be used to measure the amount of fat in one's body include computed tomography, wait for circumference, MRI, skin fold thickness, waist to hip circumference ratios and ultrasounds. The sate of affairs regarding obesity in the United States is worsening day in day out. Only four states recorded obesity rates ranging from fifteen to nineteen percent in 1991. In the same year, no state recorded rates higher than twenty percent. In 2004, nine states recorded rates that were more than twenty-five percent, thirty-three states recording rates between twenty to twenty four percent and seven states recorded rates between fifteen to nineteen percent.

Particularly in the United States, obesity prevalence is associated with genetic, environmental and behavioral reasons. People’s behavior and environmental aspects have drastically changed because of the globalization impacts, giving a big jump towards obesity. The availability of soft drinks, fast food drinks, and pre-packaged foods has risen in twenty years ago. According to various researchers in the super power nation, people are eating more snacks and taking larger potions of the same, many of which are quite unhealthy because of their calorific combinations. Technology level in the nation has reduced the chances of the people burning the calorific contents off because they work less through efficient machinery (Zopf, 1992, p.21).

Physical activities which have been recommended by many specialists include sports, swimming, yard work, floor washing, waiting tables, washing windows, construction work, walking, gardening, dancing, biking, aerobics, carpentry and skating. Physical activities not only reduce body weight but also decrease the risk of colon cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Since technology has eliminated the essence of physical activities in the United States, most Americans do not engage in physical activities. Instead of walking or riding, they use cars. Inactivity has also been contributed by televisions, dishwashers, elevators and computers. As part of the solution to obesity, Americans should be advised to perform any activities that involve movement in order to use energy and therefore burn calories.

Leave alone America, the whole world has anxiously been concerned about obesity. Maintenance of body weight has sounded as a challenge to the world, making a global call for people to do physical activities and at the same time eat healthier. The world health organization has classified obesity a global epidemic. Worldwide, at least three million people are clinically obese and more than a billion adults are overweight. According to world health organization report in 2004, obesity has affected more people compared to hunger and malnutrition. Economists have never come up with causes, potential remedies and consequences of the disease. Their major controversial aspect is that it is more prevalent in new transitional economies, many developing nations and western industrialized countries. Because of the increasing obesity cases among adolescents and children, the present figure of the disease in United States is speculated to go higher. A report by the American obesity association postulates that obesity within children has risen from seven percent to fifteen point three percent between the years 1976 to 2000. Within the same period of time, obesity among adolescents rose from five to fifteen percent. According to the speculation of multiple studies, obese children end up becoming obese adults (Acker, 2004, p.12).

Obesity in the United States has been said to impact serious economic and social consequences. A study by Cawley in 2004 within Washington area indicated that obesity affected wages and earnings negatively, especially for women. Obesity related medical expenditure is rising within the OECD, with a huge contribution to obesity disease in the total health bill. The disease subjects an economy to indirect and direct costs. American economy is subjected to the disease to direct costs such as treatment, diagnostic and preventive services. Most pronouncedly, the economy of the United States is experiencing indirect cost through loss of labor force participation because of the participants increase in health lined difficulties. Such difficulties include depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and oertain cancer. High incidence of obesity is highly correlated with decrease life expectancy and observed health expenditures. In the United States, the average cost of health care for individuals who are overweight and obese is usually higher than the one for normal people by 37%. Still on average, this figure adds $732 in the annual medical bills of each American citizen. Smoking and obesity estimated medical costs separately account for nine percent of health expenditure in the United States of America (Rosenberg, 2006, p.34).

Sill in the United States, weight related complications are caused by imbalance between the calories consumed and calories used. Socio demographic and cultural factors promote this calorie imbalance. Two diverse arguments have ever been tabled out. For one, obesity may be as a result of lower expenditure of calories in daily activities and also higher intake of calories. With special attention to higher calorific intake argument, pronounced justification is the hike of soft drink consumption and fast foods. These foods have increased dietary intake of saturated sugars, fats and calories. Serving portions are also considered a potential cause of the failures to control body weight. Within Illinois frontiers, some researchers have said that female labor participation is a factor that contributes to obesity. This is because restaurant and TV dinners which are taken in fast food restaurants have replaced healthier home cooked dinners.

Shapiro (2003) observed in multistage research that calorific growth is enough to explain weight increases. This outdates fast food argument, by showing that calorific intake increased by food taken outside the main meals like the case of snacks. This ideology also fell to give a strong interrelationship between the number of women working and obesity. With regard to expended calories, the role technological change, high rate of passive entertainment and physical activity in increasing the incidence of obesity should be emphasized. A person who spends most of his or her time in sedentary activities is probably heavier than highly active worker. In the United States, forty percent of the growth in weight is attributed to calorific expansion through food abundance by agricultural innovation. The remaining sixty percent can be attributed to demand factors which may include reduced physical activities (Kovner, 2005, p.11).

From an economic perspective, imbalance of calories has to a large extend been extended by industrialization of the global community. In industrialized environment, workers allocate less time to disposable time for entertainment and house hold activities and usually sell their time to labor market expensively. The lack of time to prepare house hold dietary meals has led to mass spread of fast food restaurants in the United States of America. Socio demographic characteristics, restaurant food prices and restaurants availability do matter in studying the quick spread of the disease. In same analysis, it has been found that the more educated and wealthier one is the low in the probability of getting the disease. Hispanics and blacks are also more exposed to the problem more than any other community in the world. Lack of enough evidence for these arguments clearly shows that obesity is a complex issue which not only depends on the forces of supply and demand of food items, but also on cultural dynamicity of societies and economic transitions.

In Americas follow up concerning this disease, it has been postulated that it is extremely difficult to develop a weight related explanation that is globally applicable because of the diversity in the cultural and socio demographic aspects. The impact and proliferation of the diseases vary largely within European nations, Asian countries and North America. Data colleted by OECD indicates that the daily intake of United States between 1973 and 1999 grew by 716 calories. The same scenario was observed in Spain, New Zealand and Netherlands. Japan appears to be an exceptional by keeping its weight in control because it records the lowest growth in the entire OECD region. Within this same range of time, calorie intake amounted to eighty seven, with obese growth of twenty three percent. This ironic scenario may imply that obesity is not always caused by high calorific consumption. Female labor participation has led to the present unhealthy food habits according to an encyclopedia sponsored by OECD. If many women work outside or far from home, they are most prone to obesity. Other contributions include reduction of strenuousness of work, change in food habits and the transition from rural to urban societies (Rosenberg, 2006, p.34).

Other interesting findings have shown that nations that have high population in their urban centers experience more cases of weight-related complications. Ninety percent of total population in United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia live in urban areas and therefore record the highest percentages of overweight population. Contrastingly, United States has a small population living in the urban area but weight related problems are present and serious. Experts have credited this anomaly to the technical progress and mechanization of the agricultural sector, significantly reducing calorific use in the rural areas and thus increasing the supply of the calories. Preliminary data analysis by OECD credits this disparity to westernization and industrialization of societies around the globe. To fully understand the spared of weight related problems and obesity, there are some cultural aspects that should not be ignored at all. The ideology of obtaining a good value of money and that of massive consumption are linked to the spread of the disease although their contribution varies from a nation to another. Adoption of new cultural habits like imitation of western culture depending on adoption and reception is a hidden contributor to obesity. The habit encourages the use of snacks, sodas and soft foods (Segal, 2002, p.32).

Consumption and population can reveal that cultural and socioeconomic elements affect the spread of obesity. Economists are however as of now exploring consequences and causes of the disease but a sustainable solution may encompass complex vision of economic incentives to consumers. Consumer incentives can be actualized through high taxing of foods containing large amount of fats, carbohydrates and sugar. The same can be achieved by subsiding certain vegetables and fruits for the benefit of lower income groups. The government can also initiate and provide compulsory nutritional food information. Since both expenditure and consumption of calories matter a lot, active lifestyles should be developed through policy formulation by the nations facing the obesity epidemic. This action will eliminate new and emerging sedentary lifestyles that are very common to all industrialized nations, United States included. The struggle against weight problems therefore may require understanding of economic growth and sociological perspectives all of which should remind the nationals that they are what they eat (Zopf, 1992, p.22).

A funny relationship has been established in the United States, concerning hunger and obesity coexistence. Hunger has been declared as America’s hidden crisis whereas obesity has been declared an epidemic in America. Although the nation has been contributing millions of dollars to feed the hungry in the world, it is still obligated to feed its own people. As suggestion towards a solution, it is believed that the nation should create awareness programs to make sure that people can prevent themselves from it and also help the victims to alleviate it using the means they can attain. The more the people have knowledge on hunger and obesity the easier it is to solve the horrible problems in U.S. people should be made aware that obesity is attributed to several factors and varies with gender, psychological factors, heredity, environment and age (Kovner, 2005, p.11).

The key link to obesity in America is heredity. Members of a family become obese if at all their genetic linkage happens to be affected or by sharing the same lifestyle and dietary habits. A section of adopted children in North Carolina was studied and results indicated that their weight was close the ones of their biological parents compared to adopted parents. In an adoptive home, environment contributes less in obesity as compared to personal genetic makeup. Another vital activist of obesity in the United States is environment. Here, environment includes person’s lifestyle, physical activity of persons and what a person eats or feeds on. Psychological factors also do contribute to peoples overweight especially in America. This argument has been developed from the feeling that a person may decide to eat because he or she is bored, stressed out or angry.

Many Americans have had a problem in dealing with psychological overheating. Weight increase can also to some degree be associated with age. The metabolism of old persons is usually very low, because the body does not burn the calories as before. Changing diet for old persons is also very difficult because for health body sustenance, such a person does not require many calories. Bearing in mind old people are not mobile and do not perform physical activities, it is worth noting that old age can lead to obesity. America has a large population comprising of old people, meaning that the population age increases its susceptibility to the above disease. Gender has also played high ole in influencing the occurrence of obesity. Naturally, men have a higher resting metabolic rate compared to women, meaning that men can maintain their body weight even at high calories. After women reach post-menopausal stage, a significant drop in metabolic rates takes place. This is why after menopause, women start gaining weight (Segal, 2002, p.31).

The above contributors to obesity have been discovered in the United States. Other cause that has not yet been fully explored within the nation includes the activity level, special medications prescribed by a doctor or as a result of some illnesses. Illnesses that increase probability to obesity include neurological problems, depression and hypothyroidism, all of which lead to overheating. Weight gain can be caused by medications on mental and seizure illnesses for they decrease metabolic rate and increase appetite. Some antidepressants and steroids are also classified under here. US department of health and human services has printed the diseases attributed to obesity in the state as per now. The disease has made citizens suffer from heart attack, abnormal heart rhythm, congestive heart failure, premature death, heart attack, angina, decreased HDL cholesterol high blood pressure, diabetes and triglycerides.

Many citizens of the United States have been reported to suffer from cancers of gall bladder, colon, breast, asthma, kidney, sleep apnea and prostrate. It has also led to cases of depression, incontinence, reproductive complications and arthritis. However, most of the above problems can be reversed with proper exercise and diet. In the United States, obesity is the second leading cause of death that can be prevented. A low income earner in America makes around $30 000 per annum. The jobs they are involved in are full of stress due to constant worries and long nights of managing a successful store. Because of this commitment, they eat regularly, meals comprising of junk foods and fast foods like soda, candy bars and chips. The same cream of people rarely does physical activities. The basic breakfast foods in the United States comprise of milk, glass of juice and sugary cereals. At schools, children’s lunch consists of high fat snacks, pop and sugary juices. Dinners of low income earners in most cases incorporate oven frozen meal or high fat microwavable meals, all of which are very healthy. They replace exercise with watching television. In the United States, each and every family can afford foods with high food content (Segal, 2002, p.32).

Many people are overlooking healthy foods for less nutritious foods. Immediate safety from obesity should be sought for these kinds of families. Children should be provided with healthier diets with a strict access to high fat meals and snacks. People should also be encouraged to find new avenues of income that have no a lot of stress. After creating a large awareness program, the government should set up federally based programs. Such programs should aim at promoting physical exercises and healthy eating. Schools in the state should also minimize the amount of drinks, high sugary foods and high fat foods availed to middle, elementary and high school students. Even students can be encouraged to make wise choices and decision on food items to take if at all healthy drinks and snacks are promoted. It is also suggested that America joins hands with other international governments to eliminate obesity. All countries should launch healthy eating habits and exercise programs to all citizens. Since complete elimination of the vice may be challenging, efforts should be made to make sure that further deaths are stopped.

Obesity causes approximately three hundred deaths per year in the United States of America, with health care approaching $1 billion per year. As earlier stated high cases of obesity have been reported in America with a high correlation to ancestry, meaning that some races may be more at risk than others. Recent findings show that black women are more prone to the problem than other women in the United States (Rosenberg, 2006, p.35).

Black women have large bone mass density, high ability to support fat in their bodies and hence increase their probability to grow obese in their later days of life. The same study further shows that diabetics who lose their weight intentionally reduce their mortality rate by 25% and also reduce their pulmonary disease. Those who used physical means to reduce their weight further reduced their mortality rate by 68% and improved their metabolism handling of glucose by 80%. The same study argued that obese men have high DNA fragmentation in their sperm and thus have reduced fertility. In coming out with this kind of generalization, the researchers compared a measure of fragmentation in men’s sperms and body mass index. As fragmentation in the sperm rose, so did the BMI. Lead researchers concluded that there was a possibility that the decline in male fertility of western world may be as a result of the growing levels of obesity. This is because excess fat in genital area raises testicles temperature, decreasing fertility and increasing fragmentation. On women’s fertility, obesity showed a negative effect because high BMI risked insulin resistance and polycystic ovary syndrome. In April 2005, New York Times reported that new research indicated that a third of depressed and obese teens are closely related to having parents with low levels of education and low income levels. The above analysis shows that obesity is yet a threat not only to Americans but also to the rest of the world. For Americans, it is advisable to extend their strategies beyond national frontiers and seek international assistance in solving the problem, because if the current trend continues, the state may become tragic (Acker, 2004, p.13).


  1. Acker Caroline, (2004). Altering American consciousness: The history of alcohol and drug use in America. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, p.12, 13.
  2. Kovner Anthony, (2005). Jonas and Kovner’s health care delivery in the United States. London: Springer, p. 10. 11.
  3. Rosenberg Charles, (2006). History and health policy in the United States: Putting the past back in. New York: Rutgers University Press, p.34, 35.
  4. Segal, Uma, (2002). A framework for immigration: Asian in the United States. New York: Columbia University Press, p.32, 31.
  5. Zopf Paul, (1992). Mortality patterns and trends in the United States. London: Greenwood Press, p.21, 22.

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