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Obesity is a big public health concern around the world. However, the situation is deteriorating, especially in the United States. Obesity rates in America are alarming for both children and adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40% of adults in the United States are obese, while 20% of children are (Gussone para.1). West Virginia has the highest adult obesity rate in the United States, with 37.7 percent, while Colorado has the lowest, at 22.3 percent (The State of Obesity para.1). Obesity rates in America are growing due to factors such as race and age. Non-Hispanic black women accounted for 57% of adult obesity followed close to Non-Hispanic black males at 37% (CDC para.4). Furthermore, men and women who are aged between 20-39 years had the highest prevalence of obesity at 39.5% and 35.4% (CDC para.4). Moreover, low-income individuals are more likely to be obese or overweight than middle or high-income earners (Mitchell 718). Obesity is a cause of concern because it can be fatal, lead to high-risk diseases such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes (Ruopeng 2).
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 and above (Mitchell 718). Body Mass Index (BMI) is measured the proportion of an individual's height about their weight. The result is that the percentage of body fat varied among the populations depending on age, gender and race (Ruopeng 4).The purpose of this research paper is to determine why the rate of obesity in America is increasing rapidly.
Causes of Obesity in America
The following are the leading causes of obesity in America that will be discussed in this paper;
• Poor diet
• Physical inactivity
• Bigger food portions
• Socio-cultural factors
Diet plays a crucial role in lowering the number of fats in the body. Poor nutrition leads to accumulation of fat in the body that leads to overweight or obesity. Most Americans are accessible to cheap processed food that is high in saturated fats and sugar (Meyer para.8; Gussone para.9). The rise of fast food restaurants and aggressive marketing from top calorie beverage companies such as Coca-Cola have led to a spike in obesity levels in the US (Stanish para.5). Furthermore, food and beverage companies flaunt nutrition rule as set by US Department of Agriculture during packaging to pass off as healthy. For instance, beverage firms ensure their products are low in calories but high in sugar levels, hence leading to weight gain in the population (Public Health). The result is that the high sugar content increases the rate of metabolism as insulin levels rise leading to obesity (Yaturu 80; Eckel et al.1424).
The high sugar levels in soft drinks lead to a craving for junk food. The junk food is gotten from fast food snacks. Several studies show that Americans get over 61% of their calorie intake from processed meals (Bushak para.1). The most common processed foods eaten by Americans include French fries, cheese, cereals, sodas, microwave foods among others. Processed foods have lack essential nutrients but instead, have hydrogenated oils that can lead to obesity. Unhealthy foods are the leading cause of childhood obesity among young children and teenagers in the US (Sahoo et al.188; Ogden et al. 808). Healthy foods are quite expensive, and most Americans prefer eating snacks while watching TV (Sahoo et al. 189). Moreover, people are concerned with consuming too much protein from red meats that increase their body weight. Americans continue to eat high-calorie junk food from fast food restaurants such as MacDonald’s, Kellogg’s etc.
Lack of physical activity is one of the major causes of both childhood and adult obesity. However, despite the rise of fitness craze, obesity continues to plague the majority of Americans. The sedentary lifestyle that involves less strenuous physical activity continues to increase the prevalence of obesity in the US (Ogden et al. 809). Watching TV while taking sweetened drinks and high calories snacks lead to obesity or weight gain particularly in young children (Sahoo et al.188). Studies show that every extra hour spent indoors watching TV increases the prevalence of obesity by 2% in America (Sahoo et al. 188).Furthermore, research conducted by CDC indicates that more than 80% of Americans do not get enough exercise (Public Health). Physical activity such as walking, running, jogging, jumping is less popular among young people. According to Sahoo et al.(189), studies show that over 53% of parents prefer to drive their children to school instead of letting them walk or bike to the educational institution. Factors that have increased lack of physical activity include poor sleep among mothers, smoking, excess alcoholism among others (Public Health).
The sedentary lifestyle is one of the principal contributors to increasing cases of obesity (Kim 2). The rise of the internet and widespread computer use has contributed to normalization of sedentary behaviour both children and adults (Kim 9). According to the recent US Department of Agriculture, people who are overweight spend over 3 hours per day watching Tv as compared to healthy weight at 2 hours per day(Kim 18). Furthermore, those Americans that work in jobs that require less energy use have higher tendencies of sedentary behaviour (Kim 10). Moreover, people whose hobbies include watching TV and movies, playing games, eating and drinking are more likely to obese due to less physical activity. Sedentary lifestyle among people that are already obese can be fatal (Kim 13). The increasing sedentary behaviour means that the number of overweight people in the US will continue to progress. Studies show that obese people will increase by 65 million in the US by 2030 with detrimental health and financial burden on the economy (Kim 16).
Bigger food portions
People are eating more significant pieces of food leading to high calories that are eventually stored as excess fat in the body. Fast food restaurant chains have been blamed for aiding obesity by serving more significant portions of junk food to customers in the US (Stanish para 6). When an individual consumes more food than is necessary, the excellent calories are stored in the adipose tissue as fat to be converted to energy(Bushak para.4). However, is never broken down into power because people who consume more food rarely engage in physical activity that requires it. A report by the US Department of Agriculture survey shows that average Americans consume 20% more calories since the turn of the millennium(Public Health). The Food and Nutrition Service of the US Department of Agriculture recommends sizeable portions eaten over a long period of time. Fat food restaurants have refused to implement this directive of portion sizes, arguing that the more food a customer wants the more profits they get. It makes sense from a business perspective but not from the health viewpoint. Children need to be taught that more substantial portions of food do not necessarily translate to appropriate physical growth. Quality of food matters more than the quantity.
Evidence from several studies shows that genetics can cause obesity (Xia & Grant 179). Studies conducted on families of obese people indicate that excess weight gain can be inherited from parents (Xia & Grant 180). For instance, one can find a whole nuclear family is obese or overweight. Therefore, genetics lead to the monogenic and polygenic forms of obesity (Choquet & Myre 169; Xia & Grant 180). Researchers have identified four genes that that can cause obesity. The genes are MC4R, BDNF, PCSKI, and POMC (Choquet & Myre 169). The genes are identified through an approach that isolated fat mass and obesity-associated genes that be used to predict future cases of obesity in children when they become adults (Xia & Grant 181). However, the genes for obesity can only be harmful through the interaction with behavioural and environmental factors of a person. It means that people who possess the gene can suppress its phenotypic expression through an active lifestyle and proper nutrition (Choquet & Myre 171). Obesity can be considered a genetic disorder. The disorder arises due to an absence of genes in the central nervous system that regulate the intake of food (Choquet & Myre 170). The fact that genetics can play a role in obesity is visible in specific groups of people. For instance, Polynesian people are typically known to be obese.
Certain diseases can alter the genetic make-up of an individual resulting in obesity. For instance, Cushing syndrome, insulinoma and growth hormone deficiency have been positively identified as causes of obesity in people (Karam & McFarlene 642). Individuals with Cushing syndrome have excess weight gain and stunted growth (Karam & McFarlene 642). Insulinoma that results in excess insulin secretion also causes obesity (Karam & McFarlene 645). Research in the genetic causes of obesity is instrumental in the treatment of excess weight. Majority of anti-obesity medications are developed based on the four genes that cause obesity(Karam & McFarlane 647; Xia & Grant 184).
Obesity and Type 2 diabetes have proved to be related (Yaturu 79). The prevalence of obesity in the population goes hand in hand with that of type 2 diabetes. It means that people who are obese are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and vice versa (Yaturu 80; Ogden et al. 810). People with type 2 diabetes mellitus are likely to become obese due to the insulin resistance and storage of excess sugar levels as fat (Yaturu 80). The result is slow rate of metabolism to burn excess fat leading to weight gain in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients (Yaturu 81). Children whose insulin production cannot lower glucose levels in the body will develop obesity. Likewise, the same children when obese are likely to developing type 2 diabetes mellitus in their older years (Yaturu 79). Those who can seek treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus will also get control of their weight. Successful obesity treatment activities such as appropriate diet and regular exercise can reduce chances of developing diabetes among children and adults (Yaturu 86).
Most obese individuals do not necessarily develop type 2 diabetes Mellitus even though the risk factor is high (Eckel et al. 1424). However, the chances of type 2 diabetes mellitus patients become overweight are a sure guarantee in a majority of the cases. To understand the direct link and association between obesity and type 2 diabetes, it is crucial to appreciate the nature of insulin resistance and role of genetics in both of them (Eckel et al. 1425). Insulin resistance as a result of type 2 diabetes mellitus increase susceptibility to obesity; that reduces thermogenesis and resultant energy expenditure (Eckel et al. 1425). Resistance to insulin leads to accumulation of fat in the adipose tissue. Moreover, the genes responsible for obesity have also been linked to type 2 diabetes mellitus (Eckel et al. 1426).
The society also influences obesity. Children and adults who have emotional problems may resort to overeating to relieve stress, hence obesity(Sahoo et al. 190). Such emotional issues may stem from work-related stress, financial struggles among others that might provide food as a source of refuge. The emotional issues might also lead to eating disorders that can significantly increase chances of weight gain particularly among adolescent girls (Sahoo et al. 189). Children with eating disorders lack impulse regulation and therefore likely to consume unhealthy foods. The society has also condition males to have higher body satisfaction when it comes to food than females (Sahoo et al. 189). Therefore, boys will tend to eat more significant portions than women leading to obesity. Women will have lower BMI than men particularly in European culture where it is considered a sign of beauty (Sahoo et al. 188). Men, on the other hand, are required to bulk up but without exercise, become overweight. Behavioral and social interaction factors to some extend cayuse excess weight. Children who are obese will tend to have lower self-esteem and in the process even eat more to compensate for lack of high sense of self-worth (Sahoo et al.188). The society shuns and rebukes excess weight, hence lowering self-esteem of the children and adults involved. The family environment can also cause obesity. Families that are less educated and have low income tend to be more obese than those with higher income and level of education (Ogden et al. 817). Such families will tend to have poor nutrition that violates dietary requirements for normal weight gain (Sahoo et al.188).
Obesity is an epidemic that threatens public health in America. The number of obese people in America keeps growing in both children and adults. People who are overweight have a BMI of above 30. Obesity is fatal and risk diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke among others. Overweight has huge financial and health burden to the US. The major causes of obesity are large food portions, lack of exercise, genetics, diabetes, poor diet and social-cultural factors. People who take large food portions, derive high calories from them. The high calorific level is in turn stored as fat under the skin. Physical inactivity can cause people to be fat. The sedentary lifestyle causes the body not to burn the excess fat stored as energy. Majority of Americans exhibit sedentary behaviors characterized by long hours of watching TV, computer use, playing games that lead to excess weight gain. Obesity can also be inherited and diabetes also leads to excess weight. Consumption of p[rocessed foods high in calories and sugar levels leads to obesity.
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