Part 1 | Obesity, An American Epidemic
If you are a Baby Boomer, you may remember that obesity was more the exception than the rule. There might have been that one kid in class who was considered chubby, but this was not very common. Today, 77 percent of our children are overweight and 17 percent are obese. American children have increased their weight at the rate of 300 percent since 1980. This is not just an image problem or a concern of fitting into a certain mold set by society. Considering that obesity increases the risk for these notorious killers – cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes – this is a matter of life or death. Approximately three-hundred thousand American deaths per year are attributed to obesity. Sixty-six percent of Americans are overweight and 34 percent are obese.
Obesity is the result of a variety of factors. Our thyroid status, genetics, diet, and hormonal imbalance have combined with America’s insatiable appetite and sedentary lifestyle to create the Bermuda Triangle of disease.
It is estimated that 80 percent of type 2 diabetes is related to obesity. Twenty-six percent of obese individuals have high blood pressure and seventy-five percent of hypertension cases in the United States can be attributed directly to obesity. High blood pressure and/or hypertension took the lives of 310,707 Americans in 2002. Seventy percent of cardiovascular disease is related to obesity.
Forty-two percent of breast and colon cancers were diagnosed among the American obese population and 30 percent of gallbladder surgery is directly related to obesity. With obesity also comes an increased risk for osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and depression.
In 2008, the medical costs for obesity-related drugs in the United States skyrocketed as high as $147 billion, increasing $73 billion during the last decade. If the trend continues, by 2018 it is estimated that 43 percent of Americans will be obese, resulting in an annual medical bill of obesity-related disease to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $343 billion. In 2006, obese people spent 42 percent more on medical costs than those who maintained a normal weight.
America’s upward trending waistlines are increasingly evident in today’s culture. The American marketplace has stretched to fit our bulging bodies with products such as seatbelt extenders, and jumbo umbrellas. The medical industry has had to make adjustments as well from larger blood pressure cuffs to purchasing 1000 pound scales. As Americans grow, their life expectancy is shortened by as much as five years. Even coffin companies have expanded their lines to include extra large and supersized coffins. The disease that characterized their life follows them into death.
America has an eating problem; as a nation, we are overfed and undernourished. During the past fifty years a lot has changed in the way Americans view and consume food. Combine the unrestricted availability of rich food and a busy lifestyle and the result is a dietary disaster. Who has time to cook dinner while simultaneously climbing the corporate ladder and picking kids up from soccer practice? The fast food industry has been more than willing to assist in remedying the situation. Each day, one out of four Americans will choose a fast food restaurant. Our spending reflects our addiction. In 2002, Americans spent approximately $110 billion on fast food. McDonald’s golden arches are now more recognizable than the Christian cross.
Our diet is high in carbohydrates and low in nutrients. Part of this unbalanced diet is due to the USDA’s misguided Food Pyramid. The fact that grains comprise the largest portion of the Food Pyramid comes as no surprise when you realize that the grain lobbies are among the most aggressive lobbying powers in the government. Instead of putting together a food guide based on the health of Americans, the resulting Food Pyramid benefits the health of the U.S. agricultural economy. As a result, our nation builds its diet on a faulty foundation.
There has also been a change in our food itself. Food manufacturers began experimenting with food additives. Monosodium glutamate, high fructose corn syrup and many additional preservatives became industry staples. These chemicals were designed to titillate the taste buds and induce cravings. Your liver treats these “foods” as chemicals and must detoxify each from your body. The chemicals tend to accumulate in your fat cells, leaving overweight individuals loaded with more chemicals as well.
Obesity can also take a toll on one’s personal psyche. Being involved in activities becomes increasing difficult and uncomfortable. For those struggling with this condition, their job is affected when tasks that require working beyond the confines of a desk remain undone. Their social life begins to wane as they decline invitations to social gatherings, or their children’s sporting events. Some people find themselves checking out of life.
Conventional medicine advises us to eat less and exercise more. But what if you are already doing this? Many Americans feel like they could exercise seven days a week, eat a piece of celery for each meal and still gain five pounds. For these individuals, mainstream medicine’s solutions are prescription drugs or surgery.
If this is the case, consider the possibility that your thyroid, which regulates the metabolism, may not be functioning at an optimal level. Once your cells receive the thyroid hormone they need, your energy level will return, enabling you to take advantage of the opportunity to exercise again. You can conquer obesity without surgery. As we will see in tomorrow’s post, the addition of thyroid hormone in concert with the other hormones such as progesterone, testosterone and adrenal hormone may be just what you need to tip the scales in a positive direction.