Reducing the Obesity Level in the United States
Obesity became an urgent problem in the United States, because it directly affected overall health of the modern society. It resulted into higher obesity rates and obesity-related diseases among adults, especially in high-risk groups. Official statistics of US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and scientific studies showed that African-Americans and Hispanic Americans were more susceptible to obesity than Non-Hispanic Whites. Unfortunately, preliminary scale and importance of this issue in the USA was often neglected. Sharp increase of obesity rate occurred owing to various alterations in food market, in the built environment, in school curricula and health care settings. The level of obesity can be reduced only through a complex approach to the given problem: propaganda of healthy food and physical activity, especially among children. Overweight children of pre-school and school age would gain numerous health problems in adulthood and, thus, would require extra insurance coverage. Parents, employers, school administrations, state authorities and health care professionals were interested into decreasing obesity rates.
Going out to eat is a suicide. Still, individuals in the United States prefer fast food to healthy food prepared at home with healthy ingredients. In fact, Americans eat one third of their calories at restaurants and studies show that eating out is directly related to obesity. Whenever anyone chooses to eat out and does not make any effort to know what is in the food, he or she is slowly killing him- or herself. Too many people are making bad food choices. Many are making these bad food choices because they do not have time to cook at home and eat a nutritious meal. Those, who are working, prefer to eat out and when they do, they order food that contains too much fat, salt and sugar. Americans are dying because they do not think before they eat. Obesity in the United States is a huge problem that will continue to be a physical, social and economic threat, unless the American public stops over nutrition, increases physical activity, and makes better food choices. Obesity in the United States is a huge problem that will continue to be a threat unless more is done to promote the necessity of good health. For example, something that would help teenagers become more active is sponsoring free after-school activities that will teach them the importance of regular exercise. Tennessee law requires building more sidewalks and bike lanes. In Tennessee, more sidewalks and bike lanes lead to an increased number of people walking and riding bikes, which will motivate them to stay fit. This is something that every state should follow to promote a more active life style in their communities.
The importance of healthy food consumption
Inclination to corpulence could be easier prevented through healthy way of life, daily physical activity, regulation of BMI, energy balance/intake and basal metabolic rate (BMR). “This means that each child will consume enough of the right kinds of food and beverages and get enough physical activity to maintain a healthy weight, while supporting normal growth and development and protecting overall health.” (Koplan, Liverman and Kraak, 2005) In this case, erroneous nutrition could not be regarded as the only reason of a high obesity rate. It was conditioned by joint influence of different factors, including sedentary activities and reduction of PE lessons. In comparison with 5 – 7% of obese people in 1976 – 1980, this number almost tripled in 2005. The same tendency was identified in all age groups, which meant that current health care policy of US could not deal with the forthcoming difficulties.
Statistical data for three preceding decades showed that the US population tended to buying energy-dense food, “junk” food and soft drinks, which negatively impacted their health. According to Patricia Anderson and Kristin Butcher (2006), students’ consumption of non-diet sodas had quickly started growing since 1987; this trend remained steady in 1990 – 2000. Food-away-from-home index almost doubled and people started buying harmful drinks more often. Installation of vending machines at school cafeterias and halls only aggravated the situation. Instead of buying juices, milk, yogurts, stewed juice and other useful drinks, students preferred sweet beverages, which did not contain vitamins. Vending machines only tempted and simplified access of students of elementary and middle schools to high-calorie drinks.
Many school administrations concluded contracts with soft drink companies for selling and advertising their products. In the United States “pouring rights” contracts became an effective source of school budget recharge. At present 73% of high schools, around 60% of middle and 42% of elementary schools entered into “pouring rights” contracts (Anderson and Butcher, 2006). Thus, pupils of elementary and middle schools, as a high-risk category, were restricted in choice of food and beverages. Above contracts affected variety of menus of school cafeterias, which had been previously completed only according to National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This tendency was widespread and profitable in schools with insufficient state financing. Therefore high-risk obesity group, African and Hispanic Americans and students from low-income families comprised basic target audience for soft drink and snack companies. “10 percentage point increase in the availability of junk food increases average BMI by 1 percent. For adolescents with an overweight parent the effect is double.” (Anderson and Butcher, 2006). Propagated beverages and snacks did not meet NSLP food safety standards. For instance, posters and fliers with Pepsi-Cola advertising could be spread over school territory and, thus, implicitly affected students’ preferences. First of all, possible influence of soft-drinks upon obesity and general health state was hardly considered. Secondly, such policy did not correspond to the National School Lunch Act. In such a way administrations tried to maintain self-supporting official food programs.
Americans are responsible for the obesity among young children. Instead of encouraging kids to stay away from empty calories in nhealthy foods that will help them stay healthy, many parents still buy fast foods. Because of being very busy, many Americans choose to have quick and easy meals, which are most often very unhealthy foods. For example, it is very useful for the modern busy parents to prepare meals high in salt, sugar and fat; these food items are easy to make in the morning. When parents chose quick and easy foods over good foods for their children, their children will become overweight. Those overweight children will then grow up to be overweight adults. Until Americans stop overeating, the rate of obesity in Americans will arise.
Frequent physical activity maintains the body for years and allows everyone the chance to experience a longer, better and happier life style. To overcome the threat of obesity, everyone at the local level, within the community or within a family must take action.
Although obesity has augmented in recent years, at some level, individuals realize the importance of exercising, but still, choose to do little. These new infrastructures are being made with the purpose of promoting citizens to walk, and exercise instead of just riding a vehicle to get to a destination. It is a project that should be prioritized by states and enforced in countries to find a way of reducing the sedentary life style that current communities have. The new generation really does worry about their inabilities to deal with the problem of obesity. Further, they are looking for possible ways out of this problem. The problem is that not everyone in all countries chooses to take an action to stop the spread of obesity.
Americans often do not have time to exercise, even if they want to do so. “More than half of the parents (52%) surveyed said their children had expressed a desire to exercise more, and 30% said their children wanted to lose weight”. While there is an interest to participate in more sport activities, and find the proper information about eating healthy foods, most people still gain too much weight. Instead of going outside and being active, most Americans, especially young kids, prefer to stay inside and use technology. Computer games and a new life in the virtual world make up a child’s daily life. When they are absorbed in the magical worlds of cyber reality or TV shows, they consume large quantities of food; often they choose foods high in fat. Moreover, the parents do not restrict access to unhealthy foods and also do make healthy foods more available at home. In the end, the child who is left alone watching television and eating chips becomes an obese adult who has no place to go but home because of his or her weight.
There were different points of view as to correlation of daily physical activity and obesity rate of US people. Although in the previous times physical training was not obligatory, required physical activity compensated in long walks and household assistance. At present there was a trend to shortage PE lessons in various educational institutions of the United States. Only 25% of all students had passed FITNESSGRAM test, which proved failure of obesity prevention policy, food safety policy, and daily portion of PE. This test was developed for assessment of correlation of physical activity level, academic achievement and obesity. FITNESSGRAM epidemiological tool allowed determining discrepancy of existing curricula and PE lessons, which caused energy misbalance (Adams, 2011).
Although kids were usually more active than adults, lack of regular physical activity would affect their life style, sedentary activities, eating patterns, selection of profession and hobbies in adulthood. According to CDC, 60% of people were doing exercises several times per month. This range included everyday morning exercises, jogging, long walks, cycling, exercises in gym or in home gyms, physical activity related to household/work etc. Many adolescents preferred aerobics, dancing, swimming, martial arts. Nevertheless, this percentage was declining steadily due to the growth of sedentary activities percentage. “Sedentarism was defined as spending less than 10% of one’s total energy in physical activities with at least an intensity of 3.9 basal metabolic rate, which corresponds to moderate walking” (Morabia and Costanza, 2004). Modern kids and teenagers spend a lot of time by TV set, computer or playing video games.
TV and Internet had additional negative impact on people of all ages, because they advertise energy-dense snacks and sweet beverages. Sedentary activities decrease motor skills, mobility and active development. Movement and physical training allowed observing energy balance equitation of pre-school and school ages. Alfredo Morabia and Michael Costanza (2004) examined negative impact of sedentarism on obesity among children and adults. They concluded that at least 15 minutes walking per day would be enough to prevent obesity-related epidemic in the USA. Even such activities as shopping or walking with a dog could be regarded as useful. At the same time, high overweight/obesity rate showed that such physical activity was irregular and insufficient to improve the situation. School curricula should provide sufficient daily physical activity in form of PE lessons, active games, pauses for physical jerk, lessons outdoors etc.
Major students from low-income (SES) families regularly bought energy-dense drinks and snacks, because they were cheaper, thus there is an opinion that a complex approach to obesity problem that includes propaganda of healthy food can’t be effective simply because many parents can’t spend much money to buy good and healthy food for them and their children. Also it is not possible to control all the time what children eat. School lunches should cover 1/3 of daily dietary allowances, including vitamins A, B, C, protein and useful minerals. Therefore they should contain grains, fresh fruits and vegetables; percentage of convenience foods and soda consumption should be restricted. In SES families both parents often worked and did not draw enough attention on school lunches and home dietary. Nutrition of pre-school children is very important, because their diet depended on preferences of parents, elder brothers and sisters, family income and genetic susceptibility to obesity. &ldquoo;Among preschool children aged two to five, overweight has doubled over the past thirty years. Almost one in every four preschoolers is either overweight or at risk of overweight. Prevalence rates are the highest among African American, Hispanic, and Native American preschoolers” (Story, Kaphingst and French, 2006). At school and outdoors they could easily consume convenience food, canned, frozen products, sandwiches, fast food dishes, which promote overweight and obesity. Within the last years, food-at-home index sharply reduced, because parents lacked time for food preparation or provided children with pin money for snacks. Besides, small budget limited ration of SES families with cheaper and less nourishing foodstuff, i.e. pizza, prepared chicken chops, sausages, fast-food dishes. Fried potatoes and sweet beverages turned out to be the most popular obesity-related dishes. Anderson and Butcher’s research (2006) showed that prices for convenience products and fast-food were lower, that’s why it impacted eating patterns of the above obesity-related group.
Overeating comes from making poor food choices. Making poor food choices comes from lack of information about the ingredients present in food. In fact, poor menu labeling is one of the other main reasons that lead to obesity. It is hard to tell if the chicken salad has mayonnaise in it, which include a lot of fat, and it might be shameful for some people to ask this kind of information. Many people do not know what ingredients are in the food that they eat. Many do not want to know because if they do know what kinds of ingredients are in the food that they eat, especially those they order at a restaurant, they will not be able to enjoy their eating experience. This attitude is wrong. Correct menu labeling can help Americans to avoid fattening foods. In this way, Americans will be able to make smarter food choices because the fat content of the food they are eating is not a mystery anymore.
Many Americans continue to eat unhealthy because they do not know any better way of eating properly. It should be noted that poor families and more often African Americans or Asian Americans experience a problem of obesity. Those who do not have much money do not have the opportunity to eat healthy. Therefore, it is the local, state and federal government’s responsibility to assist poor families and help make healthy food more affordable to them.
Menu labeling at all places that serve food can help Americans avoid unhealthy lives. A StanfordUniversity researcher found out that New York City Starbucks customers reduced their calories by 6% after the store began the menu labeling. Many are regularly eating food without knowing what’s in the food, which is going to cause them to be overweight. Many chose to consume fewer calories after they read the menu that labeled all the ingredients of each dish. Therefore, the spread of appropriate information about healthy food is one of the most important factors that can exert the necessary change in society.
School administration, full-service restaurants and health care organizations should propagate obesity-related information among students and their parents. Health campaigns, specialized training programs, lessons of food safety, propagation of healthy lifestyle in local health care organizations would improve the situation. NSLP provided free or reduced price meals for students from low-income or having-many-kids families. To reduce growth of obesity rate, school meals for high-risk students should contain nourishing and fresh food. School meals should also contain calcium-rich food and fiber and minimum quantity of added salt and sugar. “Restaurants should continue to expand their healthier meal options by offering more fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, and calorie-free beverages, and they should mount information campaigns to provide consumers at the point of purchase with easily understandable nutrition information about all of their products.” (Koplan et al, 2005) Elimination of junk food would allow for decrease in rates of obesity-related diseases such as 1 / 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and hypertension.
Therefore, to fight with obesity, there is a need to implement a complex approach to this challenging problem. On one hand, it is desirable to go in for sports, to buy healthy food etc, but on the other hand, there is a need to cultivate a culture of nutrition in the society, where food is not for filling our stomachs, but also for accompanying our communication with people around us. Modern studies and researches claim that obesity is a social problem with cultural, social and economic implications, which may destroy the American society. Therefore, let us put our efforts together in order to prevent the growing levels of obesity among children, who should be sound members of the society.
Above evidence proved that lack of physical activity was the main reason of obesity rate growing. Non-observance of food safety standards and consumption of sweet beverages also significantly affected the situation. Certainly, genetic diseases, endocrinological and neurological syndromes also could cause obesity, but they made around 5% of all obesity cases. Some SES families often did not get timely qualified help of health-care specialists at school or in hospital. School administration unofficially broke NSLP guidelines and transformed school meals according to contracts with food/soft drinks companies. All factors mentioned above aggravated the situation in the United States and accelerated sharp growth of obesity rates within the last thirty years. Separately they would not have been so dangerous for people’s health.
An irregular load distribution and day plan often broke biological clock and impacted metabolism. For normal development people should be involved in physical activity for at least 30 – 60 minutes per day. Unhealthy nutrition of students was caused by poor control of parents, teaching staff and health care professionals. Anderson and Butcher’s study revealed that NSLP standards were not properly observed and school meals really could increase inclination to overweight by 2 – 3% per year. Thus, NLSP efficiency had been called in question and it required further improvement.
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