Go to Google or any search engine, and type “Obesity in America” or something like that. You will find millions of results, like this one from the Food Research Action Center that breaks down obesity by gender, race and age.
“Obesity rates have more than doubled in adults and children since the 1970s,” it opens. “More than two-thirds of U.S.adults are overweight or obese.”
There’s also this stat sheet from the site State of Obesity that shares similar results. While the overall increase in number of those who are overweight or obese has “plateaued,” that number remains high and shows no sign on decreasing any time soon.
The intra-country numbers are high, and scary, but how do they look when compared to the rest of the world? Feast your eyes on this cute yet upsetting graphic from June 2014.
“Today, nearly one third of all living people — a whopping 2.1 billion — are either overweight or obese,” writes Susan E. Matthews, who penned this article. We certainly take more than our fair share of the pie in this stat, too — whereas 37 percent of adults in the world are experiencing these weight problems, the U.S. has nearly twice the proportion in its population.
However, this is not simply something we Americans raise our eyebrows at and shrug — obesity has serious repercussions on a country’s healthcare financial systems.
PBS breaks it down, but here are the highlights: Sweden’s obese population earns 18 percent less than their fit co-workers. An obese person costs the healthcare system 25 percent more than someone with normal weight. Severely obese people have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years shorter than those of normal weight.
Suffice it to say, this is all very serious stuff, and there is no straightforward answer as to why we eat so much.
Enter Dr. Edie Goldbacher, an assistant professor at La Salle University in North Philadelphia. Specializing in clinical and health psychologies, Goldbacher looks to raise public awareness of the myriad ways in which obesity begins and continues.
“Absolutely, education is important,” she said in a discussion with La Salle students. She also delved into the economic impact on food availability — healthier foods are more expensive, correlating with the spike in overweight and obese among those with lower incomes.
“People [within ‘food deserts’] have much less access to those healthy foods, and maybe they don’t have transportation so it makes it incredibly difficult to purchase healthy foods.”
However, an interesting concept she points out goes beyond finances and into the field of genetics.
“For obesity, genetics loads the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger,” Goldbacher quotes from the Rudd Center at the University of Connecticut. This relationship between nature and nurture causes more of the problem than people believe, she expounded.
The trend of overweight and obese Americans has slowed down, but what will it take to begin trekking in the opposite direction?