~ U.S. Obesity Rates Reach All Time High ~
By: J. Chevonte’ Alexander
Obesity is one of the biggest health concerns in communities across the country. More than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have developed obesity. Nearly 40% of adults and 19% of youth are obese, the highest rate the country has ever seen in all adults, according to research released by the National Center for Health Statistics.
So, why are adult obesity statistics so high? Salvatore Carbone, research instructor of medicine in Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Department of Internal Medicine and VCU Health’s Pauley Heart Center, says “two key reasons are genetic factors which predispose a specific person to develop obesity and that unfortunately, to date, we cannot change. And, there are environmental factors, which mostly mean unhealthy diet and reduced physical activity, which we can definitely target and change in the course of our lives.”
“The environmental factor is the one that we should really focus on to reduce the risk to develop obesity and the metabolic and cardiovascular diseases associated with being obese, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.”
Diet certainly plays a central role in the development and progression of obesity. In the last three decades diet has changed dramatically, with a significant increase in the consumption of refined products rich in calories, sugars and processed food, often rich in sodium and saturated fat. The consumption of these foods result in increased energy or caloric intake.
Obesity is a serious concern because it is associated with poorer mental health outcomes, reduced quality of life, and the leading causes of death in the U.S. and worldwide, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.
Virginia statistics can be found here: https://stateofobesity.org/states/va.
“You have to think that in the early 90’s, only 11 percent of the Virginians was obese.” says Carbone. “This percentage has increased dramatically, and the most recent data in 2016 estimate that almost 29 percent of people in Virginia is, in fact, obese.”
The data is even more dramatic in the African American population, in which almost 40 percent of the population in Virginia is obese compared to 27 percent of Caucasians and 30 percent of Latinos. In addition to obesity, the obesity-associated chronic diseases are also increasing, and this is highlighted by the fact that about 10 percent of people in Virginia have diabetes, and about 33 percent have high blood pressure, therefore exposing this population to a higher risk to develop cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke, but also non-cardiovascular diseases such as some types of cancer, which can be diagnosed more frequently in obese people.
Losing the Weight
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, or a combination of both, along with 2 days of strength training per week. Having a healthy diet pattern and regular physical activity is also important for long term health benefits and prevention of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
“Physical activity, especially if performed frequently, also has the potential to increase the amount of muscle mass in the body therefore increasing the number of calories that our body burns every day, finally favoring weight loss.” says Carbone.
The most appropriate tool for weight loss is to sustain a negative energy balance, which means burning more calories than we introduce in our body every day. In addition to weight loss, people with obesity should follow dietary recommendation to reduce the risk to develop obesity-related complications such as diabetes and hypertension. To do so, the major recommendations are to consume at least 3 to 5 servings of vegetables and fruit every day, associated with the consumption of whole grain-based products, as well as limiting, as much as possible, the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and to prefer water instead.
The way we treat and what we put in our bodies will affect us forever.