Obesity Epidemic "Astronomical"
The prognosis for the nation is bad and getting worse as obesity takes its toll on the health of adults and children alike.
Despite the new attention paid to obesity by doctors,
researchers, and the media, no discernable progress has been made in fighting
obesity. According to most experts, it looks almost certain that obesity will
get worse before it gets better.
Cynthia Ogden, PhD, a CDC epidemiologist, published the results
of a study of weight in the United States that she conducted with other
experts. The results were startling: 31% of adults are obese and 15% of
children and teenagers age 6-19 are overweight. The proportion of obese people
has been growing steadily for the last few decades. Although Ogden stresses
that obesity is a problem for all groups and genders, it is particularly severe
among certain ethnic groups. For instance, 50% of all non-Hispanic black women
Did Ogden see anything promising in the results of the study
about obesity in the U.S.? "I didn't see any hopeful signs," she
The seemingly contradictory reports in the media about what
people should and shouldn't be eating almost certainly don't help things. For
instance, proponents of protein diets argue that all of the accepted wisdom
about eating a low-fat diet is wrong. Most experts don't agree with them, but
protein diets are being evaluated in studies now.
Where mainstream nutritionists and protein diet proponents
agree is that the low-fat recommendations of the 1990s didn't quite work.
"People took the low-fat message and decided that it meant that as long as
they ate things that were low-fat, they could eat as much as they wanted,"
says William Dietz, MD, PhD, the director of the division of nutrition and
physical activity in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and
Health Promotion at the CDC. That isn't the case, since calories add up, no
matter what form they come in. Even worse, many of the low-fat snacks that
companies developed actually had higher calories than their regular-fat
equivalents, Dietz observes.
According to Nestle, the media also have a tendency of
confusing things by reporting the results of scientific studies out of context.
She argues that the relative stability of the dietary and fitness
recommendations over the years -- eat less fat and more fruits and vegetables,
exercise regularly -- is obscured by the media, which are more interested in
exciting stories about radical diets or the effects of particular
"miracle" foods or vitamins.