Obesity, Part I: Just the (Fat) Facts
By G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
In the western world, and especially the United States, obesity is a problem that continues to grow. Today's fat facts are by no means complete. These are just some of the more recent findings I dug up one night in my study:
- Obesity and its effects cost Americans $100 billion per year.1
- Americans spend $33 billion per year to lose weight.1
- Americans eat more fast food than ever before.2
- Americans ate eight million more orders of french fries, almost six million more hamburgers, and five million more servings of fried chicken nuggets this year compared to last.2
- Eight-six percent of Americans consumed at least one no-fat or low-fat product within the last two weeks.2
- Our nation's largest fast-food chain dropped its low-fat hamburger due to poor sales.3
- In 1995 this same company spent $800 million to promote their products.
In contrast, the National Cancer Institute spent $1 million to promote fruits and vegetables. These statistics are even worse when one considers that the 800:1 ratio only includes one fast food company.
- Cardiovascular disease caused by obesity costs $29.4 billion per year.5
- Fifty-seven percent, or $8.8 billion per year of the money spent on noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is due to obesity.5
- Musculoskeletal conditions and arthritis related to obesity costs $3.75 billion per year.5
- Thirty percent of gallbladder disease, costing $3.2 billion per year, is caused by obesity.5
- A few years ago scientists told us obese people with abdominal fat (apple shaped) were at a higher risk for fat-related diseases than obese people with lower body fat (pear shaped). A new Canadian study demonstrated that pear shaped people are also at a higher risk for fat-related disease than their nonobese counterparts.6
- A study from Harvard made headlines when they concluded that breast cancer was not related to fat intake.7
- Other research has shown that consumption of excess calories regardless of the source does increase the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer.8
- Up to 70% of hypertension is caused by obesity.9
- The USDA food consumption survey revealed the percent of fat in American's diet continues to go down: 33% in 1994, 34% in 1990, and 40% in the 1970s.10
- Calories consumed in this average American diet continue to rise, averaging 1949 in 1994 versus 1839 in 1990 (this is why Americans continue to gain weight).10
- Although the percent of fat is lower, the total amount of fat consumed per day is greater because the total calories are higher.10
- Americans consumed 73 grams of fat per day in 1994 versus 72 grams of fat in 1990.10
- A Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital study showed women who weigh 15% less than average live longer. The death rate increases as women gain weight, even in those not defined as obese.11
- Women who gained 22-40 pounds after age 18 had a 70% increase in deaths from cardiovascular disease and a 20% increase in deaths from cancer.11
- The metabolism of the average woman is 11% slower than that of the average man. This calculation included adjustments for height, weight, age, basal metabolic rate, and calories burned during exercise.12
- When women of normal weight were given yogurt and told it was low fat, they ate considerably more than when they were given yogurt which was described by researchers as being high in fat. What they were not told was that it was the same yogurt manufactured by the same company.13
Fighting obesity is a huge industry. With so much information on fats in the news on a regular basis, it is not surprising many Americans get confused. This confusion came to a head last year when studies and surveys continued to show that Americans are heavier than ever before, even though they are reducing the percentage of calories consumed from fat. Popular diet books and the media immediately targeted carbohydrates as the bad guys and labeled them "fattening." What was ignored is the fact that in 1994 the average American consumed 40,000 calories (over the course of a year) more than they did in 1990. The correct message should be that excess calories from any source will result in increased body weight.
G. Douglas Andersen, DC
- A survey by Decision Resources, a market research company in Waltham, Massachusetts. Drug Topics, September 2, 1996.
- A survey from NPD Group, a market research company in Rosemont, Illinois. New York Times, November 20, 1996.
- Newsday, February 6, 1996.
- New York Times, September 5, 1996.
- PharmoEconomics 5, 1 (1994).
- JAMA, December 27, 1995, 274.
- The people rejoiced. New England Journal of Medicine, February 8, 1996.
- Food Chemical News, April 22, 1996.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1996, 63, 41.
- USA Today, January 17, 1996.
- New England Journal of Medicine, 1995, 33: 667-685.
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 1996, 50, 2:72-92.
- Muscular Development, July 1995, 168.
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