Some Serious Thinking About Obesity

The obesity crisis gets the intellectual treatment in this article by Marc Ambinder in the Atlantic:

By 2015, four out of 10 Americans may be obese. Until last year, the author was one of them. The way he lost one-third of his weight isn’t for everyone. But unless America stops cheering The Biggest Loser and starts getting serious about preventing obesity, the country risks being overwhelmed by chronic disease and ballooning health costs. Will first lady Michelle Obama’s new plan to fight childhood obesity work, or is it just another false start in the country’s long and so far unsuccessful war against fat?

In 1948, Congress doled out $5 billion to Europe in the first installment of the Marshall Plan, the World Health Organization was born, a simian astronaut named Albert I was launched into the atmosphere (he died), and doctors in Framingham, Massachusetts, an American everytown that once was a seat of the abolitionist movement, began a pioneering study of cardiovascular disease. Its initial results helped persuade the American Heart Association, in 1960, to push Americans to smoke fewer cigarettes and, a year later, to cut down on cholesterol. Today, thanks to a long-running public-health campaign, Americans have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, they smoke less, and fewer die from cardiovascular disease. In fact, from 1980 to 2000, the rate of deaths from cardiovascular disease fell by at least half in most developed countries.

Would that we had had similar success battling obesity. In 1960, when President-elect John F. Kennedy fretted about fitness in an essay for Sports Illustrated titled “The Soft American,” roughly 45 percent of adults were considered overweight, including 13 percent who were counted as obese; for younger Americans, ages 6 to 17, the rate was 4 percent. Obesity rates remained relatively stable for the next 20 years, but then, from 1980 to 2000, they doubled. In 2001, the U.S. surgeon general announced that obesity had reached “epidemic” proportions. Seven years later, as the obesity rate continued to rise, 68 percent of American adults were overweight, and 34 percent were obese; roughly one in three children and adolescents was overweight, and nearly one in five was obese. Americans now consume 2,700 calories a day, about 500 calories more than 40 years ago. In 2010, we still rank as the world’s fattest developed nation, with an obesity rate more than double that of many European nations…

[continues in the Atlantic]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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3 Comments on "Some Serious Thinking About Obesity"

  1. “Balance the Scales” Health Plan-exchange anyone who is over 100 pounds overweight with a starving person from a Third World country, reach equilibrium, switch back.

  2. Threedinium | May 3, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    I got a better idea – Soylent Green.

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