An estimated 97 million adults in the United States are overweight or obese which amounts to one-third of adults (34.9%) and 17% of youth. Being obese substantially raises the risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and endometrial, breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Higher body weights are also associated with increases in all-cause mortality (i.e. death from all causes). Obese individuals may also suffer from social stigmatization and discrimination. As a major contributor to preventive death in the United States today, overweight and obesity pose a major public health challenge.
The Definition, Prevalence, and Cost of Obesity
Prevalence of Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S.Adults
The way the medical profession defines obesity is based on a ratio called the body mass index (BMI). Dividing your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in meters) provides the BMI.
An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
An ideal BMI is between 18 and 24.9.
The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
Americans Continue to Gain Weight
Despite years of knowing better Americans are continuing to gain weight. The number of diets that are available to lose weight is coming close to the number of people overweight. The confusion of what to eat is confounded by the foods that are available to us.
Addiction is a real problem that many people do not factor regarding the inability to follow a “healthy” diet. Addiction is linked to the “sweetness” of food. Sweetness is a function of not only how much sugar is in a food but how easy it is to absorb. Refined sugars are usually simple sugars and are monosaccharides or disaccharides. The simple sugars are very easy to absorb and cause a spike in the blood glucose. Refined sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, no fats and no enzymes – only empty calories.
Many foods also contain refined sugars. These include candy, regular soda, syrups, table sugar, cakes, cookies, pies, sweet rolls, pastries, fruit drinks and dairy desserts. Because so many convenient foods include added sugar, any packaged or restaurant food that contains sugar could be considered a refined food. A study published in 2013 in the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine” found that sugar-sweetened beverages are the primary cause of higher caloric intakes, and their consumption is associated with a higher intake of a number of other refined foods, including pizza and grain-based desserts.
Complex sugars exist in plants and are called polysaccharides. These sugars require more time to digest and slowly enter the blood stream. There is no spike in the blood glucose and your body has longer and better energy source. In addition, the whole foods plant based diet (WFPBD) is an excellent source of fiber, minerals, proteins, enzymes and has a balanced amount of fats.
Exercise is important but diet is the key. When I first started practicing medicine I emphasized exercise but now I want people to realize that if your diet is poor, exercise will not be enough to gain health.