Friday, June 20, 2008

Bigger, But Not Better—Part III, The Skinny on Obesity

Finally, let’s look at some of the really staggering figures associated with our growing society.

  • Since 1991, the number of Americans considered morbidly obese has increased more than 74 percent.
  • The Social Security Administration pays more than $77 million per month to those who meet obesity requirements for disability.
  • Obesity and inactivity are closing in on tobacco use as the leading preventable causes of death in the U.S.
  • Obesity is now more costly to U.S. companies than smoking or alcoholism.
  • Obesity is associated with 53 health conditions and has roughly the same association with chronic health conditions as 20 years of aging. It contributes to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some types of cancer.
  • As many as 47 million Americans may exhibit a cluster of medical conditions (metabolic syndrome, or Syndrome X), characterized by insulin resistance and the presences of obesity, excessive abdominal fat, high blood sugar and triglycerides, high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol.
  • It is likely that the increase in the prevalence of diabetes in the last 20 years in the United States is due to the marked increase in the prevalence of obesity. Body mass index, abdominal fat distribution, and weight gain are important risk factors for type 2 diabetes. (American Obesity Association)
  • From 1997 through 2004, the number of new cases of diagnosed diabetes increased by 54%.
  • Data from the 14-year Nurses’ Health Study demonstrated that normal weight women who gain only 11 to 17.6 pounds were nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes during the study. Women who gained 24 to 44 pounds were more than five times as likely to develop diabetes.
  • The medical consequences of obesity in the US—diabetes, high blood pressure, even orthopedic problems—costs an estimated $100 billion a year.

The costs are high, no doubt, but the ultimate cost to Americans is measured in chronic disease, disability and early death. If these are indeed costs we can begin to control, there’s never been a better time to start doing so.

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