America has a problem. One might say a very large problem. The problem I’m referring to here is obesity. Obesity is defined as when a person’s weight is more than 20% over their ideal weight, based on height, age, sex, and build. This is becoming such a large problem in America for several reasons. First off, over one third (35%) of America’s population is considered obese. There is a reason that American’s are stereotyped as fat lazy people among the rest of the world. However, we didn’t have this problem 40, or even 20 years ago. So what is causing this epidemic as of late? Who is it affecting the most, and what effects is it having on our current economic situation, and vice versa.
In order to identify the cause of the obesity epidemic, the first place you want to look is in your local super market. Pick up your favorite snack, take a look at the ingredients label, and read it off to yourself. Can you recognize half the stuff they put in there? You would think that a cheese flavored cracker would have four to five ingredients, tops, right? So many of the big companies now pump so many preservatives into their products that it’s hard to know just what the heck you’re eating these days. Back in the day, there weren’t all these packaged processed foods designed to live ten years or more on a shelf. Not too long ago, a substitute for sugar was crafted by these companies called high fructose corn syrup. It was much cheaper to create this stuff in a vat somewhere then it was to use real sugar, so they started putting it in everything. To understand just how bad this stuff really is for you, you need to have a basic understanding of how your body breaks down sugars, also known as simple carbohydrates. When you ingest simple carbohydrates your body works immediately to convert it into glucose, which is used by your body as energy. Things like honey and agave nectar are excellent sources of glucose and your body doesn’t even have to work to break them down. However, high fructose corn syrup is another story. Fructose is broken down so slowly by the body that much is is not able to be digested before being stored in the body as fat. In order to eat healthy and clean in America’s super markets, a person has to really educate themselves on nutrition and that is something most American’s are simply not willing to do, even for their own health.
Speaking of health, I hope it’s pretty obvious that obesity carries with it a laundry list of health concerns. Obese people are at a significantly increased risk for over 20 major diseases. These include big ones like heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. In the last 19 years, type 2 diabetes rates have doubled in eight states. In 1995, 28 states had type 2 diabetes rates below 5%, but in 2010, only nine states had rates below that number. Hypertension rates were above 25% in only four states in 1995, as well. 19 years later, 45 states have rates exceeding 25% with nine states going over 30%. The numbers speak for themselves. This is an issue that erupted in a relatively short span of time.
Oddly enough, you would think the demographic for the obesity epidemic would be higher income people, or those with enough money to spend on large meals and more food. A study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that’s partly true, in the Mexican-American demographic. However for the most part higher income families are able to afford higher quality foods from grocers such as Whole Foods and Sprouts, where groceries are significantly more expensive but free of the cost reducing chemicals some companies put into their products.
Activity levels in children and adults have also played a large factor. Ask any adult who was a kid earlier than the 90’s about what he or she did for fun as a child. Chances are they will tell you something that involved outside, often times some kind of sport or physical activity. Baseball, soccer, cops and robbers, these