For those of you that didn’t get to watch The Weight of the Nation on HBO, I pulled out some important information on Part 1 Consequences and Part 2 Choices. Part 1 looks at a study that started back in 1972 to prove that heart disease starts in childhood, the Bogalusa Study. This is the first study to autopsy children who had died from accidental and non-cardiac causes in search of heart disease. 20% of these children had fat deposits in their coronary arteries along with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Of the 16,000 participants in this study, 77% of obese children remained obese as adults while only 7% of healthy children became obese as adults.
Nine of the top ten states for obesity are also our poorest. In some of these poor neighborhoods, children have a 1 in 3 chance of diabetes. African American or Latino children have a 1 in 2 chance in developing diabetes and, they say, at this rate most will die before their parents. Overall though, unlike in the past, obesity is affecting all classes of people, not just the poor.
I learned that a diseased liver has a huge role metabolically on obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. Cryptogenic cirrhosis or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is found in 13% of normal weight children and 38% of obese children during autopsies. 25% of adults have excess fat in the liver. This disease did not exist before, in adults or children. Doctors do not know the specific reason behind it but that it only exists in people that are overweight or obese. Researchers say this modern disease could be the leading reason behind liver transplants in the future.
The statistics of health problems behind obesity and overweight individuals are endless. 20% of cancer death in men and 14% in women are related to overweight or obesity. 66% of people with arthritis are obese. You are 83% more likely to get kidney disease and 80% more susceptible to dementia if you are overweight or obese.
Type 2 diabetes mostly affects overweight and older adults and accounts for 90% of people with diabetes. Currently 25 million people in the U.S. are diabetic, another 79 million are pre-diabetic and 5 million are walking around undiagnosed.
An obese person costs $1400 more a year to insure while a diabetic person costs $6600 more a year. It comes out to $150 million dollars a year to insure overweight and people with diet related problems with half of that money coming from state funding. That means everyone pays out of pocket for this epidemic. In North Carolina and Alabama these obese employees are forced to pay higher premiums to stay insured. Also the case in some private sectors, or they will just avoid the cost all together and move the jobs to India or China. When it comes to our military, 27% of people trying to get into the military cannot because they are past the weight requirement.
So to sum up Part 1, Consequences, the next leaders of this country are dying before their parents from diseases they shouldn’t have. The workforce is so unfit that companies are moving out of the country to fill jobs. Military, police, the men and women that protect this country are not only limited on new recruits by 27% because of obesity but 3-5,000 service personnel a year are discharged for being overweight. Never mind the whole in America’s pocket the health care cost is burning through.
As a consumer, a diner in a restaurant, a citizen of this country, you have a decision to be part of this problem or make some changes to be in the solution. As a chef, a restaurant owner, anyone in the feeding people business, we also can either keep on feeding this problem or make some changes to benefit our guest’s health. This obesity epidemic is crippling our nation.
“This is preventable. This is not one of those unfortunate acts of nature that we just have to accept. This is not the product of a tsunami.”-Jack Shonkoff, MD Director, Center of Developing Child, Harvard University
My synopsis of Part 2 Choices, will follow soon.