Thursday, November 1, 2012

D ig g in g O u r G ra v e s.w ith F orks a n d K nives ,T H E E FFE C TS O F TH E A M E R IC A N D IE T

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Americans have been among the first people worldwide to have
the  luxury  of bombarding  themselves  with  nutrient-deficient,
high-calorie food, often called empty-calorie or junk food. By "empty-
calorie," I mean food that is deficient in nutrients and fiber. More Americans than ever before are eating these rich, high-calorie foods while remaining inactive — a dangerous combination.
The number one health problem in the United States is obesity,
and if the current trend continues, by the year 2030 all adults in the
United States will be obese. The National  Institutes of Health esti­
mate that obesity is associated with a twofold increase in mortality,
costing society more than $100 billion per year.1 This is especially
discouraging for the dieter because after spending so much money
attempting to lose weight, 95 percent of them gain all  the weight
back and then add on even more pounds within three years.2 This incredibly high failure rate holds true for the vast majority of weightloss schemes, programs, and diets.
Obesity and its sequelae pose a serious challenge to physicians.
Both primary-care physicians and obesity-treatment specialists fail to
make an impact on the long-term health of most of their patients.
Studies show that initial weight loss is followed by weight regain.3
Those who genetically store fat more efficiently may have had a
survival advantage thousands of years ago when food was scarce, or
in a famine, but in today's modern  food pantry they are the ones
with the survival disadvantage. People whose parents are obese have
a tenfold  increased risk of being obese. On  the other hand, obese
families tend to have obese pets, which is obviously not genetic. So it
is the combination of food choices, inactivity, and genetics that deter­
mines obesity.4 More important,  one can't change one's genes,  so
blaming them doesn't solve the problem. Rather than taking an hon­
est look at  what causes obesity,  Americans are still looking for a
miraculous cure — a magic diet or some other effortless gimmick.
Obesity is not just a cosmetic issue — extra weight  leads to an
earlier death, as many studies confirm.5 Overweight individuals are more
likely to die from all causes, including heart disease and cancer. Two-thirds
of those with  weight  problems also  have  hypertension,  diabetes,
heart disease, or another obesity-related condition.6 It  is a  major
cause of early mortality in the United Stales.7 Since dieting almost
never works and the health risks of obesity are so life-threatening,
more and more people are desperately turning to drugs and surgical
procedures to lose weight.
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