Let’s take a moment in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, to discuss one of the other major issues within America today: the obesity epidemic. Obesity is the term used when a person is grossly overweight. This is determined by analyzing body mass index (BMI) or a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Research shows that the high rates of obesity seen in America today have occurred as a gradual trend and are not owed to solely one factor.
One factor contributing greatly to the obesity epidemic is the American portion size. Compared to any other country, America has the largest portions per meal. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average American ate almost 20% more calories in the year 2000 when compared to the year 1983. This is due greatly to the increased consumption of meat and grain. The average American puts away an average of 195lbs of meat, compared to 138lbs in 1950. Also, grain consumption rose 45% since 1970.
Another contributing factor has been the continued normalcy of inactivity in America. Only 20% of today’s jobs require moderate physical activity, as opposed to 50% of jobs in 1960. Also, research suggests that Americans burn 120 to 140 fewer calories a day than they did 50 years ago. According to the CDC, 80% of Americans do not get enough exercise.
What is most concerning is that the prevalence of obesity in children and young adults is on the rise and they are becoming overweight at earlier ages. One out of three children are overweight or obese. Earlier obesity oftentimes results in a higher likelihood of adult obesity and increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar.
Recently, it has been discovered that race and socioeconomic status may play a role in those at risk for obesity. Those with a lower income status or labeled as a minority are more prone to become overweight or obese. This may be because often healthier foods are more expensive. Therefore, low-income groups may not be able to afford healthy food options easily. Without a healthy diet, it is difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Also, low-income groups may lack resources, such as gym memberships, to maintain an appropriate amount of daily exercise.
One recent study further demonstrates the implications of being obese has on those who contract COVID-19. Among 6919 patients with COVID-19, there was a J-shaped association between BMI and risk for death. Overall, the study concluded that obesity plays a profound role in the risk of death from COVID-19.
As the epidemic continues to grow it is important individuals are educating themselves, their friends, and family in efforts to put a stop to this growing trend.
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