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Published: Fall, 2003; Vol 5, Num 3


Study Links Excess Weight To Likelihood of Alzheimer's (Washington Post)
CDC: Obesity Fastest Growing Health Threat in US (Reuters)
Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy: Whose Job Is It? (Frontiersman (Palmer, Alaska))
Doctors Tie Obesity to Genes, Culture (Augusta Chronicle)
Study Shows Sharp Rise in Cost of Diabetes Nationwide (US Dept. of Health and Human Services)
Study Suggests Portion Sizes Getting Out of Control (WRAL (CBS), Raleigh-Durham, NC)
Obesity is Personal, Not Public, Concern to Many (
High Blood Pressure's Prevalence Up, Study Finds (Washington Post)
Study Cites Pervasive Effects of Obesity in Children (Washington Post)
Slimming Down Oreos: Kraft Plans to Make Its Food Products Healthier (Washington Post)
In Anti-Obesity Drive, FDA Expands Labels (Reuters)

Healthy Weight Assumes
Prominent Position
In Nation's Health Agenda

Have you noticed the surge of headlines this year about obesity?

Until recently, weight was considered a personal issue. Not any more.

In 1999, 61 percent of adults in the United States were overweight or obese. But even more alarming was the fact that the prevalence of overweight adolescents (aged 12 to 19) had nearly tripled (to 14 percent) during the past two decades. Further, 13 percent of children aged six to 11 were also overweight.

With obesity spreading into the nation's youth, adult prevalence will only worsen in the decades to come.

And that means problems for the nation's overburdened health care system.

According to a study cited in USA Today (May 13, 2003), "Americans' extra weight costs the nation as much as $93 billion in annual medical bills, and the government pays about half that amount." By comparison, the annual medical bill for smoking was estimated at $76 billion just a few years ago.

Health Consequences
of Obesity

•Premature death

•Increased risk of heart disease

•Higher blood pressure

• Greater incidence of diabetes

•More sleep apnea and asthma

•Greater incidence of arthritis

•Irregular menstrual cycles and more infertility

•More complications in pregnancy

•Association with increased risk of gall bladder disease, incontinence, depression and surgical complications

"Overall," the USA Today report continued, "the annual medical costs for an obese person are about 37.7 percent more, or $732 higher, than the costs for someone of normal weight."

With social costs so high, it's no wonder that weight no longer is considered a personal issue.

Get Control of Your Weight

Generally, your weight is the result of your own genetic make-up and your personal habits with regard to diet and exercise.

Weight Problems
at the Worksite

•Extra weight can slow you down and make you less efficient on the job.

• Larger body mass may prevent access to confined spaces or restrict performance of other jobs requiring agility or maneuverability.

• Overweight workers may have trouble wearing PPE or other equipment if appropriate sizes are not available.

• For every ten pounds of excess weight on the stomach, an extra 100 pounds of pressure is put on your back; thus, obesity can cause back problems, a leading source of workers' compensation claims.

• Fat holds heat; therefore, obesity can increase your risk for heat stress on the job.

Genes are a given, but habits can be modified. In some cases, medications or surgery also may be required.

Experts agree that modern portion sizes are too large and that diets are skewed far too heavily toward sugar and fat. We should cut down on sugar and fat and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. A sharp debate continues over the best balance of carbohydrates (grains) and proteins (meats and dairy products).

Experts stress, however, that dieting seldom will result in permanent weight loss unless it is accompanied by a sustained increase in exercise. Even a modest increase in exercise will result in some weight loss for most people.

[Steve Clark]