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Friday, January 20, 2012

Facing a Huge Problem

Me climbing the
"stairs of death" in Valparaiso, Chile. No problemo, well almost none.

This blog will be a rant about the obesity epidemic in the US. Even in 2004, obesity (being at least 30 percent overweight based on Body Mass Index (BMI)) caused 400,000 deaths and cost $122.9 billion. Things might have improved slightly at present. Nontheless, this country is worried about debt and expenditures, when we are causing a lot of needless expense due to our unhealthy sedentary life styles. The human body was meant to be active, based on the size and strength of healthy muscle tissue. After all, we are near the top of the food chain. But many people get almost no exercise.

 At present 45 to 50 percent of African American and Hispanic women are obese. Perhaps worse, over 15 percent of our children are obese as well. There are many theories about why this is happening to us. Among the possible causes and effects of this epidemic are

--Taking in too many calories and expending too few
--Dehydration, caused by drinking too many unhealthy sugary fluids and not enough water.
-- Too much TV and computer/games, etc. and too little exercise.
-- A food industry that still insists on serving mega-size portions and too often too much fat and sugar.
--Excess salt, sodium, and partially hydrogenated oils.
--Too much white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweetners, preservatives, and additives, like hormones and MSG, which are believed to increase insulin, the fat storing hormone, leading to typical fat deposits on arms, bellies, and chins.
-- MSG is also labeled as hydrolysed vegetable protein, glutamic acid, calcium caseinate, among others, believed to alter brain neurotransmitters, interfering with leptin, which tells our brain when we are full and leading to out of control eating.
-- genetics and hormone imbalances play a role, but this alone does not account for the dramatic increase in the overweight population.

What can we do? Well, for starters when we eat at home we can completely control our food intake. Read labels, buy mostly natural foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and cut down significantly on portion size, especially of meat. In restaurants, share entrees and desserts with a friend. In most places you'll still have plenty to eat. Obviously, more exercise is needed, as I say in almost every blog.

Finally, it is a sad commentary on many levels to see that Paula Deen, the 64 year old TV cooking celebrity, has just announced that she has type 2 diabetes and was diagnosed three years ago. If you have ever seen her show, you know that she is overweight and cooks almost exclusively "southern comfort" type foods high in fat and sugar.