Obesity Crisis in America

Prudhomme, Marcario, Haas, Nelligan, Higginbotham

Obesity and it's status in the US

Jack Prudhomme

What is Obesity?

Obesity is both a disease and a lifestyle, and has deadly consequences if action is not taken to combat it. According to the Obesity Action Coalition, Obesity is defined as an extreme excess of body fat, characterized by a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher. Body mass index or (BMI) for short, is a measure of your body fat based on your weight in relation to your height. There are many negative effects of obesity, including heart disease, bone disease, joint pain, heart attacks, decreased mobility, and the general visual unappealing nature of obesity.

Obesity in America Today

Obesity is Taking Over Our Country

With the increase of things like dirt cheap fast food, wide variety of candy, increase of indoor activities such as video games, our country as a whole is becoming much heavier. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more that one in three adults are considered obese, and one in six adolescents age 9-19 are obese. This statistic is extremely frightening because these numbers are just for obese americans, they go on to say that over two thirds of american adults are overweight and obese. That is staggering; more people are out of shape in our country than in shape. If we compare these numbers to 35 years ago, the percentage of obese adults has more than doubled, and the obesity rate in children has more than tripled!
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This graph clearly illustrates the rapid increase of this disease that is plaguing America. It goes on to project a 50% obesity rate by the year 2030. If action is not taken, we will soon be at this point where one in two people are suffering from medical issues such as heart disease, bone disease and fatal heart attacks due to their obesity. You can read further about current obesity rates in America at StateOfObesity.org.

If we look at obesity as a function of different demographic groups, we see a lot of interesting trends.

  • if we look at obesity as a function of age, adults age 40-59 have the highest rate at about 39.5%. Children age 9-19 have the lowest rate of obesity at around 17%.
  • If we categorize by gender, we see that women of every age group except adolescents age 2-9 have a higher obesity rate than men by about 2% on average.
  • Lastly, if we look at obesity as a function of socioeconomic classes, low income adults are disproportionately more likely to be obese than the average income American. More than 33% of adults who make less than $15,000 a year are obese, compared to the 24.6% of people who make at least $50,000 a year.
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Christopher Marcario

Causes of Obesity


As you are growing up, the community can increase the likelihood of you being obese. According to the article “Childhood Obesity Causes & Consequences” from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, there are several factors from the community which can increase your risk of obesity.. They are the advertising of less healthy foods, the serving of unhealthy foods at child care centers, and increasing portion sizes.

In addition, limited access to healthy foods, greater ability to unhealthy foods, and unsafe places play a big factor as well. Spending time outside is critical (see inactive lifestyle). On the other hand, if you live in a food desert, there might not be a way for you to get healthy food. This goes to show how much obese people can be victims of the places they are living.


The Harvard School of Public Health has an interesting take on genetics. They say that genetics actually do not have a direct effect on obesity. Rather, they say it can increase the chance of you being obese, like slow down your metabolism or throwing off your hormones. Genetics is a myth and many people blame genetics for obesity.

Energy Balance

This is probably the greatest direct cause of obesity and it is kind of obvious. People are over eating and their unused calories are turned into fat and over time, it makes them obese. According to the article “Adult Obesity Causes & Consequences” from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Adults need to do at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise or 75 minutes of intense cardio exercise, per week, not including 2 days of strength training. People have been overeating more and more each year. Overeating is not necessarily a bad thing but the calories do need to be worked off.

Medical Status

Gary Gibbons, from the US department of Health & Human services says, health conditions, medicine’s, emotional factors, age, pregnancy, and lack of sleep are all legitimate causes of obesity. Certain health conditions, being pregnant, and lack of sleep can throw off your hormones which can cause you to eat more and process less food. Additionally, steroids, antidepressants, and seizure medicines can have the same effect as well as cause you to hold more water. Next, people also tend to eat more when they are bored, angry, or stressed. Lastly, if you are too old or injured, you may not be able to work off all of the calories you consume.

Inactive Lifestyle

It's hard to stay active in a world or TV and video games. Gibbons also says that over two hours of TV a day is linked to obesity. This is why it is important to get outside and do some sort of physical activity every single day. For this reason, people in rural areas tend to be fatter than those in the city. People in the city tend to walk or bike everywhere hence they are in-shape. Conversely, people who live in rural areas tend to drive everywhere which can cause them to be obese. At the end of the day, you just need to burn what you eat.
Obesity Facts and Statistics

James Haas

Solutions to Obesity

Maintaining A Balance of Calorie Intake & Exercise

The most important part of keeping a healthy weight is maintaining a caloric balance. This means taking in as many calories as you burn. Whenever calories are consumed, they are digested and turned into energy. If the body doesn’t use the energy, it is converted into stored energy commonly known as fat. If someone consistently takes in more calories than they burn, the stored energy begins to pile up and the person begins to gain weight. This concept is also very important for losing weight. The goal would be to consume fewer calories than burned. When the body runs out of immediate energy to function, it starts burning stored energy or fat. By maintaining a caloric balance, it drastically decreases the chance of becoming overweight. Below is a chart of commonly consumed foods and the equivalent amount of exercise to burn them off.

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Hormonal Issues and Weight losss

Feeling hungry even after eating? This is a common problem for many Americans. It is caused by two hormones. These two hormones are leptin and insulin. Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells telling the brain that the body has enough stored energy. The hormone insulin, when produced in excess, blocks the leptin from reaching the brain and results in the body thinking it is starving. The problem behind this rise in insulin is due to carbohydrate consumption. When the body digests carbohydrates, it produces an excess of insulin blocking the leptin from the brain and making the person feel hungry. This effect is exaggerated in people with Type II Diabetes. With diabetes, the pancreas produces an excess of insulin making it harder to get full. To minimize the blocking of leptin, the most effective solution is to cut down on carbohydrate consumption. For further help, it would be wise to contact a doctor
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Prescription Drug Use & Obesity

In America today, 3 out of 5 Americans use prescription drugs. Prescription drugs have also been linked to obesity. According to Stephanie Booth of Web MD, “As many as 10% to 15% of weight issues are related to medication”. Medications linked to obesity range from antidepressants to steroids and even include some allergy medications. They can cause a decrease in metabolism and an increase in appetite. It is important to be aware of the side effects of every medication you are taking. The effects of most medications can be minimized by proper diet and exercise. If needed, a change of medication can potentially fix any weight gain issues.

Joshua Higginbotham

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

In order to finally defeat obesity, we have to find a solution to the problem of overeating. There's simply no way around it. But is that even possible in America, the most obese nation in the world? It certainly is, but individuals would have dedicate themselves to building a more health-friendly environment. To get an idea of what that requires, let's put into perspective the specific environmental factors that both draw people into becoming obese, and also make it it difficult for obese people to become healthy.
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You’ve probably seen a sign like this before. They’re an indication of the cycle of temptation and addiction that obese people are often trapped in. Dr. David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, explains how this cycle works in the following video, based on his own extensive research both into fast food companies and why Americans struggle with overeating (see also his New York Times bestselling book, The End of Overeating).
How the Food Industry Is Impacting Global Health: David Kessler
In the video he explains that the apparent business plan of fast food companies is (in a paraphrase of his words) to put fat, sugar, and salt in all the food, to place it on every street corner, make it available 24/7, and cleverly advertise to make eating socially acceptable at any time. The fat, sugar, and salt are 3 key ingredients which he identified as being particularly stimulating to the brain’s pleasure centers. This article, from Scientific American, discusses food addiction research along the same lines as Dr. Kessler does, but with more emphasis on the food itself than on food companies. It highlights the fact that unhealthy foods (namely, those containing large amounts of fat, sugar and salt) affect the brain in many of the same ways that addictive illegal drugs do.

So you have elements in the food that enslave the mind in addiction, combined with endless cues from the environment that stimulate the addictive impulses. Those who have become caught in this cycle, and become obese, are obviously faced with an immense challenge to break out of it. How can they break out of it? And for those who are not caught in the cycle, how can they help those who are?

The only true, long-term solution is for individuals to change their lifestyles. The research presented in the earlier Scientific American article suggests that initial measures could be similar to those taken with individuals who struggle with alcohol or drug addictions. Indeed, medical interventions have proven effective at reducing obesity in a large number of individuals. However, relapse is inevitable unless the junk food in their diet is replaced with good food, and any bad habits that may have existed are replaced with good ones.

The most effective weight loss programs have addressed both the scientific and environmental sides of food addiction. The scientific side is addressed by providing guidance and information to those seeking to lose weight, helping them know what diet and/or exercise regime will be most helpful so that they can build lifelong habits that protect against the temptation to overeat. The environmental side is addressed by surrounding them with good examples and providing encouragement, as well as family and friends making a conscious effort to remove obstacles and temptations from their immediate environment. Both of these focus on helping the person who’s trying to lose weight become stronger as a person, and not simply eating less or exercising more (neither of which really work by the way; see articles below).

Short of some sweeping legislation to limit the availability, and social acceptability, of junk food, it will be actions like those just described that will be the only way to truly reduce obesity in America.

Trevor Nelligan


The Future Of Obesity

In the United States, the future of obesity is something that is still up in the air. Will society address these problems and implement good solutions to them, or will the obesity epidemic continue to proliferate? Let's take a look at some different future outcomes with respect to obesity, that way the impact of the choices we make today is apparent in their effects on our future.

BMI Reduction Across The Board

Lets examine a world where we are able to drop the BMI of the entire population.

“If the average body mass index was reduced by just 5 percent by 2030, thousands or millions of people could avoid obesity-related diseases, thereby saving billions of dollars in health care costs.” (Nelson, Zeratsky; What Will It Take to Reverse the Obesity Epidemic? MayoClinic.org)

This is an incredible result, just from a numerical standpoint. While saving countless lives and dollars, there would be an incredible social return in the form of happier, healthier people. This is certainly a goal that is worth working for. However, there are some liabilities with this vision for the future; whatever BMI reduction that can be achieved across the board could certainly be restructured to deliver an even more acute reduction in BMI to those who are overweight, rather than society as a whole.

Targeted BMI Reduction

The alternative mentioned above is to target the BMI reduction, reducing the BMI of the obese segment of the population instead of the entirety of society. This would have different results than the across-the-board type of BMI reduction, and would potentially have more focused and immediate results. This method is especially attractive because with the limited resources available, it is important to make the decisions that lead to the most optimal overall positive change.

“Whether targeted interventions achieve better or worse results than average BMI reductions is not a straightforward matter – the results depend on the details.”

(McPherson, Klim, Marsh, and Brown. Tackling obesities: future choices: Modelling future trends in obesity and the impact on health. Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, 2007.)

What If We Do Nothing?

If the obesity epidemic is left to increase and affect more and more people, soon society would be completely changed.

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The above image shows the result of inaction; incredible increases in obesity in the near future.

A quote from the same study the chart is derived from:

“Our projection models show that by the year 2030, ∼90% (86.3%) of all American adults would become overweight or obese and 51.1% of them would be obese.”

(Wang, Youfa, et al. "Will all Americans become overweight or obese? Estimating the progression and cost of the US obesity epidemic." Obesity)

In less than 15 years, our society would be nearly 90% overweight or obese. Imagining this is just incredible. For an entire society to slip so far, it is beyond imagination. Clearly, this future is one we cannot allow.

Planting The Seeds of Change

Today, we are given the option of choosing the future we want to see. The quote below highlights the importance of prioritizing said decision:

“Childhood obesity represents a threat to the health of the US population that must be considered equal to that presented by AIDS, breast cancer, and teen pregnancy.”

(Hill, et al. "Childhood obesity: future directions and research priorities." Pediatrics)

So with that in mind, lets plant the seeds of change today, so that by the time we are old, we can see the fruits of our dedication to health and positive change.

Call To Action

To secure a healthy future for America, you should:

-Carefully watch calorie intake

-Allocate time for daily exercise

-Cut down on carbohydrate consumption

-Encourage other to be proactive about staying healthy

For any questions or comments about obesity in America, contact the Center for Disease Control at:

Center for Disease Control

1600 Clifton Road

Atlanta, Georgia 30329

Executive Summary

  • Obesity is a disease that is plaguing our society today.
  • It is defined as an extreme excess of body fat characterized by a BMI of 30 or higher.
  • Obesity rates in America are higher than ever today, and the rate is increasing in every age, gender, and social demographic.

Works Cited

"Adult Obesity Causes & Consequences." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 June 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

Booth, Stephanie. "What Prescription Drugs Make You Gain Weight?" WebMD. Web. 25

Apr. 2016.

"Childhood Obesity Causes & Consequences." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 June 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

"Finding a Balance." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Web. 25 Apr.


Gibbons, Gary H. "What Causes Overweight and Obesity?" National Heart, Lung, and Blood

Institute. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

Gunnars, Chris. "A Simple Way to Fix The Hormones That Make You Fat." Authority

Nutrition. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Hill, James O., and Frederick L. Trowbridge. "Childhood obesity: future directions and research priorities." Pediatrics 101.3 (1998): 570-574.

Jay. "How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle – Burn Fat, NOT Muscle." A Workout Routine. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

Kennedy, Paul J. "Is Obesity An Addiction?" Scientific American. Scientific American, 1 Sept. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Kessler, David. "How the Food Industry Is Impacting Global Health." Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Stanford, CA. 7 June 2011. YouTube. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

McPherson, Klim, Tim Marsh, and Martin Brown. Tackling obesities: future choices: Modelling future trends in obesity and the impact on health. Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, 2007.

Nelson, Jennifer K., R.D., L.D., and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. "Nutrition and Healthy Eating." What Will It Take to Reverse the Obesity Epidemic? MayoClinic.org, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/obesity-epidemic/bgp-20056139>.

"Obesity Action Coalition » What Is Obesity?" Obesity Action Coalition What Is Obesity

Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

"Obesity Causes." Obesity Prevention Source. Harvard School of Public Health, 20 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

"Obesity Rates & Trends Overview." : The State of Obesity. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

"Obesity Statistics." - The Obesity Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

"Overweight and Obesity Statistics." Overweight and Obesity Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 25

Apr. 2016. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease.

Pagoto, Sherry. "I Am Bored, Therefore I Eat." Psychology Today. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.

Talens, Dick. "Exercise vs. Diet: Which Is More Important for Weight Loss?" Life Hacker. N.p., 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

Wang, Youfa, et al. "Will all Americans become overweight or obese? Estimating the progression and cost of the US obesity epidemic." Obesity16.10 (2008): 2323-2330.