I’m Fat, So What?

I received an email over the weekend with this information, “An alarming new study shows that health care costs increased last year at the fastest rate in more than a half century.  Health care spending rose to an estimated $2.5 trillion in 2009, or $8,047 per person — and is now projected to nearly double by 2019. If we don’t act, this growing burden will mean more lost jobs, more families pushed into bankruptcy, and more crushing debt for our nation.  The conclusion is clear: This isn’t a problem we can kick down the road for another decade — or even another year.”

One of the biggest errors made by people who study climate change was to use the phrase, “global warming”.  People who see global warming expect every day to be warmer and if there are huge snowstorms, freezing temperatures in South Florida or less snow in Vancouver, BC before the Winter Olympics begin than there is in Washington, DC, they say, “What global warming?”  The researchers should have said that we are experiencing global climate change and people would have said, “Wow, maybe they are on to something.”

So it is with the “obesity epidemic”.  People say, “I’m fat, so what?”  What if, as the New England Journal of Medicine says, you are suffering from “dead weight” in their article, “Deadweight – The Influence of Obesity on Longevity” or some catchy phrase about “dying younger”.  Here are some quotes from an article in the Washington Post:

“Obesity has started to erode the gains Americans have made in extending their life spans and will stall the long trend toward increasing longevity unless the nation takes aggressive steps to slim down, researchers said yesterday.

Illnesses caused by obesity are already shortening the average U.S. life by at least four to nine months — greater than the impact of car accidents, homicides and suicides combined — a first-of-its-kind analysis has determined.

Within 50 years, if the trend is not reversed, obesity will cut the average life span by at least two to five years, which would exceed the effects of all cancers, the researchers estimated. That could overtake all gains from healthier lifestyles and medical advances and cause longevity to plateau or perhaps decline, they projected.

Except for major catastrophes such as famines, wars and pandemics, the life span of the average American has been increasing steadily for the past two centuries, reaching an all-time high of 77.6 years in 2003, the most recent data show.

The take-home message is that obesity clearly needs to be considered in an entirely new light — it is far more dangerous than we ever thought,” said S. Jay Olshansky, a University of Illinois demographer who led the study in today’s New England Journal of Medicine. Several other researchers agreed, saying the finding that obesity is actually undermining longevity should be a wake-up call.”

Not worried about the state of your health killing our country?  You should be…

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