The United States is a global leader in many ways. But in this respect, I wish we weren’t…
I’m talking about obesity rates.
Reports show that, in 2018—for the first time ever—more than 35 percent of adults in nine different U.S. states were obese.
Yes… that’s well over a third. Which means this epidemic is only gaining steam…
Hitting an all-time high
Obesity rates soared in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia, in particular. (The year before, “only” seven states saw their obesity rates above 35 percent—which is still horrifying.)
What makes this news even more disturbing is how quickly obesity rates are ballooning. As recently as 2012, not a single state had an adult obesity rate above 35 percent.
In fact, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows that we’ve quickly reached an all-time high. Between 2015 and 2016, nearly 40 percent of adults and 20 percent of children were obese—not just overweight, but obese, with a body mass index (BMI) over 30.
And over the last three decades, the rate of obesity has rocketed by 70 percent among adults, and by a staggering 85 percent among children. (Keep in mind that I wrote my first diet book for children around 25 years ago—and back then, I was scoffed at.)
But do you know what this trend means?
It means that in the 50 years since we’ve been watching the obesity rate rise, modern American medicine still hasn’t been able to come up with a way to stop this epidemic—not through programs, incentives, or even sensible advice.
Which makes the study’s accompanying press release—in which the authors state that it “highlights the fundamental changes that are needed…for people to eat healthy foods and get sufficient exercise”—all the more maddening.
Honestly… what a joke of a statement. Can you quantify sufficient exercise? Can you define healthy foods? Can you make them easier to access? Can you make them less expensive? Can we finally regulate to discourage overconsumption?
When you have a country that still believes the calorie in/calorie out garbage, it’s clear that the “thought leaders” barely know their ABCs. And yet here we are, allowing them to control health and nutrition policy for 350 million people.
Seven key steps toward change
I’ve written about this crisis from so many different angles by now, but it always boils down to this: Special interest groups have been given free rein to destroy the country’s health in the name of profits.
The fact is, Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Agribusiness have been handsomely padding the government’s pockets to keep their stronghold on this country’s policies. So if change has been hard to come by, I think we all know why.
Because history shows that regulation works. Several American cities have passed laws on sugar-sweetened drinks that have shown promise. (Berkeley put a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages—and Philadelphia instituted a 1.5-cent per ounce tax. Both have led to a drop in consumption.)
And there are several other government policy recommendations that could help reverse the obesity crisis. Among my favorites?
- Force health insurers to cover obesity prevention services.
- Ensure funding for obesity prevention strategies in every state—not just the measly 16 that have funding now.
- Make it harder for advertisers to pitch junk to kids.
- Put an end to federal tax loopholes for the food industry.
- Invest in federal physical education programs for kids.
- Make the country a safer place for pedestrians of all ages.
Finally, we must improve our abysmal school nutrition programs and start feeding our kids real food. Because no, pizza is not a vegetable, no matter what Congress says.
We can and must do better. And as always, I suggest we start by taking a page out of my book—literally.
P.S. Don’t be duped by the projected “obesity paradox”, either—which I tell you all about in the May 2017 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“Healthy obesity is not a ‘thing’”). Not yet a subscriber? Become one today!
“Historic High as Obesity Exceeds 35% in Nine US States.” Medscape Medical News, 09/16/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/918442)