Cause & Effect: Obesity in America, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Obesity is common, serious and a growing problem. In the U.S. almost seventy percent of adults are obese, but despite these appalling numbers, the continental U.S. ranks “only” third among the top ten Fattest Countries in the World (CDC 42-46). There are enough theories out there regarding what causes and effects obesity to make one’s head spin. What is becoming increasingly difficult for researchers to explain is why this imbalance in the energy balance equation occurs. Until recently, the major causes of obesity were considered to be behavioral naturally – that is to say, people are eating more and exercise less. This idea led many, and thus, the public, to believe that more weight reflects a lack of determination on the part of the overweight and obese. However, obesity is a complex disorder with multiple contributing factors. There is not a single cause of obesity. A combination of behavioral, psychological, genetic, physiological, metabolic, hormonal, socio-cultural, and environmental factors acting together over time can contribute as causes and effects of obesity.

Obesity is a serious problem. According to Center of Disease Control and Prevention, there are 73 million obese adult men and women in the U.S. or 34% of the adult population. There are 17.5 million obese children and teenagers in the U.S. or 17% of the population (CDC 42-46). Obesity is associated with 440,000 deaths annually in the U.S., with economic costs reaching more than $100 billion (Ian Yip 1009).

Thomas L. McKnight, while writing on a basic physiology of obesity, notes that obesity is the result of excess calories, in the form of triglycerides stored in billions of fat cells or adipocytes (5). He further states that when the calories in versus calories out equation favors excess calories in, then the patient gains weight as fat cells fill up with triglycerides (5). Excess calories, to McKnight (5), ingested from carbohydrates, proteins, or fats, are not melted away, eliminated through the kidneys, or passed through the colon. This calculation is simple. A weight increase of one pound, McKnight (5) continued, is the result of 3500 extra calories consumed, and the loss of one pound of weight is the expenditure of 3500 calories.

In the USA, as Yip (1010) points out, many factors interplay in causing the high incidence of obesity. For instance, the dietary industry spends somewhere from 50 billion dollars each year selling their different products and varying dietary programs. The food industry spends somewhere around 36 billion dollars each year advertising the different products and agricultural materials they produce to encourage greater consumption. At the same time, the medical profession devotes very little and resources in the prevention and treatment of obesity.

In the U.S., as Ian Yip (1009) further notes, about 147 billion dollars spent yearly treating obesity and its different complications. Yip (1009) lists several complications including cancer of several types, including colon, prostate and pancreatic cancer; heart diseases, adult-onset diabetes, Gall Stones, Cholecystitis, Pancreatitis resulting to Gall Stones, Hypertension, Stroke, High cholesterol, Deep Vein Thrombophlebitis, Pulmonary embolism secondary to deep vein thrombophlebitis, and Sleep Apnea, etc., etc.

The main reason is, McKnight (6) argued, the medical profession in the United States spends such valuable little time in the prevention and management of obesity is that insurance companies could not care less about obesity and will not pay physicians to provide medical care for obese patients or for the measures necessary for preventing obesity in the first place. The federal and state governments are not doing very much either because the government, generally, spends somewhere around 50,000 Dollars a year on nutritional and other educational programs addressing obesity – a pitiful gesture at best.

Undoubtedly, exercise has a significant role to play in the fight against this obesity syndrome. However, too many members of minority groups and other poor individuals find themselves with insufficient time to go to the gym to exercise because they are too busy working two to three jobs just to survive. Required gym fees are simply not in the budget. However, in fact, one does not need to join a gym to exercise. Simple activities like walking, running, swimming and bicycling can lead to calorie loss and consequently better health.

The current prevalence and health impact of obesity are staggering. With over two-thirds of America either overweight or obese, and with those numbers continuing to increase at a dramatic rate, it is vital that physicians be engaged in helping their patients gain control of this chronic disease. Therefore, it is important physicians understand the basics of this disease and can communicate that information to their patients.

Works Cited

Ian Yip. “Bone Loss, Vitamin D. and Bariatric Surgery: Nutrition and Obesity”. In Feldman, David, Pike, J. Wesley and John S. Adman, Vitamin D (Vol. 1). Academic Press, 2011. Print.

CDC. CDC Grand Rounds: Childhood Obesity in the United States. MMWR 2011; 60(02):42-46. 21 January 2011. Web. 03 December 2011. (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6002a2.htm)

McKnight, Thomas L. Obesity Management in Family Practice. Birkhauser, 2006. Print.

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