Monday, November 26, 2012

5 Reasons Why You’re Fat

Why are Americans, out of all the countries in the world, one of the fattest? One of the most common answers is that Americans are fat because individuals are making bad food choices, and are thus willing themselves to be fat. People routinely cite obese people with a ton of junk food in their carts at grocery stores, or the “super-sizing” at fast food places as reasons why Americans are fat.

1. Corporations are why you are fat:

 An article in The Atlantic looks at how corporate social responsibility campaigns shift "responsibility" for healthfulness onto the consumer and away from companies' fattening products.

According to the authors, from the Berkeley Media Studies Group in Berkeley and the Public Health Advocacy Institute in Boston, the moves the soda industry has made in recent years mirror those of tobacco from years ago.

The authors argue that outwardly CSR (corporate social responsibility) campaigns appear to be an attempt to raise public awareness of the health concerns of a given product, but more subtly, CSRs can work to shift the onus of responsibility to the consumer, and away from the company.

"It is clear that the soda CSR campaigns reinforce the idea that obesity is caused by customers' "bad" behavior, diverting attention from soda's contribution to rising obesity rates," the authors write. "For example, CSR campaigns that include the construction and upgrading of parks for youth who are at risk for diet-related illnesses keep the focus on physical activity, rather than on unhealthful foods and drinks. Such tactics redirect the responsibility for health outcomes from corporations onto its consumers, and externalize the negative effects of increased obesity to the public."

Are corporations responsible for Americans’ corpulence? What other factors have caused the rates of obesity to skyrocket in recent years? Why has the rest of the world not followed suit in ballooning rates of obesity?Why is obesity so concentrated in the South, minority populations, and the poor?


2. King Corn

Corn.  It's in almost everything we eat, in one form or the other.  We feed it to cows, chickens, and pigs to make them gain more weight than they otherwise would; so why do we think it wouldn't have the same effect on us?

A recent study found that rats fed high fructose corn syrup gained more weight than rats fed sugar, even though the caloric counts were identical.

In the 40 years since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup as a cost-effective sweetener in the American diet, rates of obesity in the U.S. have skyrocketed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1970, around 15 percent of the U.S. population met the definition for obesity; today, roughly one-third of the American adults are considered obese, the CDC reported. High-fructose corn syrup is found in a wide range of foods and beverages, including fruit juice, soda, cereal, bread, yogurt, ketchup and mayonnaise. On average, Americans consume 60 pounds of the sweetener per person every year.


3. Less exercise- 

We, as a nation, are exercising less and less.  The thinnest state in the U.S. is Colorado, mostly attributed to the fact that it has very high exercise rates.  But even Colorado as the skinniest state in 2012 is fatter than the fattest state was in 1995.  We are exercising less, and getting bigger, and that ain't good.

Prevalence of Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S. Aduts BRFSS, 2011

Obesity map. For data, see PowerPoint or PDF linked above.

4.  Eating out more-

Americans eat out more than ever before.  The rise of two-income households means less time at home to prepare meals, and more time spent eat out.  Eating out is linked with obesity.

"For the average consumer, eating one meal away from home each week translates to roughly two extra pounds a year," said Lisa Mancino, a food economist for the USDA.

More than half of adults eat out three or more times a week, and 12 percent eat out more than seven times a week. As a result, the pounds are adding up....

Eating out tends to pack on the pounds more than dining in does because portion sizes are larger, and restaurant foods tend to be higher calorie, said Cynthia Buffington, director of research and education for Florida Hospital Celebration Health's metabolic medicine and surgery institute.

And those calories tend to be the kind that promote obesity.

"The calories we eat out, for a variety of hormonal and metabolic reasons, actually cause more weight gain," said Buffington, who says foods can be fat promoting or fat fighting.

Obesity-promoting foods include sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, processed grains and trans fats — all cheap ways that restaurants add flavor. These foods lead to changes in blood sugar that cause cells to store food energy rather than burn it, said Buffington.

5. No Sleep-

People have less time in general.  In addition to two-income households, electronic devices, longer commutes, etc. all mean that we have less sleep.  Less sleep is a contributing factor to obesity.

With an ever-increasing number of studies finding a direct connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain, it's difficult to deny the cause-and-effect relationship. People who get at least seven hours of sleep per night tend to have less body fat than people who don't. There are, of course, other factors involved in determining who becomes overweight and who doesn't, like food intake, exercise and genes. But sleep is a more integral of the process than most people realize. In a study involving 9,000 people between 1982 and 1984 (NHANES I), researchers found that people who averaged six hours of sleep per night were 27 percent more likely to be overweight than their seven-to-nine hour counterparts; and those averaging five hours of sleep per night were 73 percent more likely to be overweight.

So there you have it, some post-Thanksgiving thoughts for you to ponder while you are standing on the scale.  What are some other factors that contribute to society's huge increase in obesity?

1 comment:

  1. Okay, so:

    A) I feel like I should write this while on the elliptical.

    B) I feel like there is a connection between this and the fact that America has the whole hoarding thing that you don't see as much in other countries. We have more room than in other countries, many of us have plenty of food/stuff, and those traits have consequences.

    C) Also, I blame computers and video games - our houses have gotten larger and our yards smaller, kids spend less time outside. We've replaced actual time going out and doing things with staying home and doing things via computer.