Wellness News 7-14

By Deana M. Newman, M.A., C.C.P.

It’s no secret that the United States has an overweight/obesity crisis – an ongoing battle since the mid-seventies.  Unfortunately, on July 17, 2008, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported the U.S. obesity rate in adults increased nearly 2 percent between 2005 and 2007.  Now over 25 percent of all U.S. adults are obese.  When analyzed by age and gender, the prevalence of obesity ranged from 19.1 percent for men and women aged 19-29 years to 31.7 and 30.2 percent for men and women aged 50-59 years respectively, according to the CDC.  

Surprisingly, the issue has also become an overseas’ epidemic as well.  More than a quarter of the adult population in China is overweight or obese as recently reported by Reuters.  A significant increase in consuming high fat and animal-based foods such as meat and eggs and a decrease in vegetable consumption were reported as the foundation, especially now that China is also facing an increase in cancer and heart disease cases.

According to the American Obesity Association, being overweight is classified as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 and obesity is equivalent to having a BMI of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated using the following formula:   BMI = (weight in pounds / height in inches2) x 703

For example, a 5 foot 6 inch (66 inches) adult who weighs 215 pounds would have a BMI of 34.7, which would place him or her in the obese category.  Of course, the above parameters would have different meaning to an individual with a large muscle mass such as a body builder compared to one with a large percentage of body adipose tissue or fatty tissue.  

What exactly is the problem?  Overweight and obesity problems, stem from consuming a diet high in fat and excessive calories, living an inactive lifestyle or a combination of both.  Other factors sometimes come into play such as the environment, genetics, hormonal disorders and/or cultural influences such as a diet which is considered the norm within a certain culture.  No matter the causative agent, being overweight or obese carries a long list of risks for additional disorders and diseases: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, breathing problems, depression, stroke, and premature death to name a few. 

Fortunately, being overweight or obese is preventable and manageable through joining weight management programs, changing daily eating habits, increasing physical activity and regular medical exams.  Next month, we will explore ways of executing simple methods to start a journey of weight loss slowly, yet surely.