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Tackling 'Globesity,' One Small Step at a Time

Experts Warn of Dangers of Worldwide Obesity Epidemic

WebMD Health News

Oct. 24, 2005 (St. Louis) -- Obesity is not only an epidemic in this country, it is a global explosion. Researchers say "globesity" is out of control, and the health care community has ideas to help stem the tide of expanding waistlines.

A panel of experts shared ideas at the American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition on how to put a dent in the obesity problem.

Panel members Jim Hill, PhD, John Foreyt, PhD, and W. Phillip James, MD, DSc, all agreed that the environment needs to change if we are to have an impact on the serious consequences of obesity and turn strategies into solutions. There is no simple solution to this very complex problem; taking small steps to tackle the problem is a great beginning.

Causes and Consequences

The trend of increasing numbers of adults with excess weight continues. According to the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), more than 64% of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese.

The U.S. is not alone. Australia, the U.K., Germany, Croatia, Greece, Finland, and many other countries have a high prevalence of overweight adults, according to the International Obesity Task Force web site.

"The cause of the obesity epidemic around the globe is multifaceted and complex," says James. "Developed countries have spent large sums of money to provide mechanical, electronic, and physical aids to remove the need to do any physical activity so people burn fewer calories each day."

According to James, "this is further compounded by intense marketing and availability of inexpensive food that is high in calories, fat, and sugar."

Well-known health consequences of obesity include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, liver abnormalities, and negative psychological consequences.

These conditions are not limited to adults and are being seen in the growing number of overweight and obese children.

Excess weight has been associated with an increased risk of some cancer.

In men and women, being obese or overweight has been linked with an increased risk for kidney cancer. In women, breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancer risk all increase with excess body weight.

According to NAASO, The Obesity Society, obese women have a 1.5-fold greater risk for endometrial cancer and a twofold greater risk for postmenopausal breast cancer.

One Small Step at a Time

"We need to focus our attention on health, well-being, and the improvement of the quality of life that small changes can achieve," says Foreyt. Don't think of a diet-and-exercise overhaul; think small steps to halt weight gain and then move on to weight loss.

"If we could simply stop gaining weight, it would be a substantial first step toward reducing globesity" says Hill, one of the founders of America on the Move, which popularized the pedometer.

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