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The Underlying Cause of the Rise of Obesity Prevalence

In the previous post on how the degree of vitamin absorption and metabolism could vary from person to person, we can see there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to supplementing for health. The same goes for the publicized food pyramid in 1992, recommending 6-11 servings of carbohydrates followed by fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and then “Use Sparingly” on “Fats, Oils & Sweets” according to the US Department of Agriculture Food Guide. It may be coincidental that the prevalence of obesity has continued to climb from 20% in 1988-1994 to 35% in 2010, based on a report posted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). It’s almost as if there was little intervention to slow the growing obesity rate in America.

Speculations aside, what’s for sure is that obesity has continued to climb not only in America but also in countries around the world. This trend was brought forth by the advancement and industrialization of society spurring economic growth. Consumers have reaped the benefits of convenience, but along came the unintended consequences of buying into advertisements for food and other consumables time and time again. Public health scholars have indicated how obesity is a multifactorial disease accounted for by genetic, environmental, socioeconomic, and behavioral causes (Hruby and Hu, 2015).

Genetic
If the parents are obese, there will be a likelihood that the offspring will be the same as well. The same applies to the case of weight gain or diabetes during pregnancy. Following a healthy diet and lifestyle will be one step to preventing childhood obesity.

Environmental
The “It takes a village to raise a child” proverb holds when providing a supportive environment for the youth to develop and grow. “Food deserts,” which refers to areas lacking options for fresh whole foods and area populated by fast-food restaurants instead, can be a risk factor for obesity for the affected vicinity. Local infrastructure plays a role such that the availability of parks and outdoor recreational activities help promote energy expenditure critical to weight loss.

Socioeconomic
An examination of literature studying obesity prevalence across cultures, countries, and socioeconomic class has revealed a weak correlation between wealth, educational status, and obesity risk. In some countries, affluence may be associated with higher obesity rates, and in others, it may be lower income or education attainment instead.

Behavioral
Affordability and convenience has made food accessibility a low-hanging fruit. Food production has become cheap, and supermarkets can easily stock up on inventory for shoppers to purchase. Research has been pointing out processed foods, sweetened beverages, and potato chips to be the main culprit for weight gain. A sedentary lifestyle could have a role in adding pounds from sitting too much and not engaging in enough physical activity.

Eating less and exercising more may seem like hard work. But when we have a system that facilitates convenience of going about our lives – such as driving more and walking less, eating more frozen, packaged, and processed foods and making less healthful and whole foods for ourselves, and engaging more on sedentary activities like binge-watching streamed videos and going outdoors less – it will be hard to break this series of consumer habits. It may take baby steps for you to make the first step, perhaps two steps forward, and one step back, to make progress towards a more healthy habit. Some patience, discipline, and faith will be key to seeing yourself improve over time. Indeed, you are what you do and eat.


References

Fryar, C. D., Carroll, M. D., and Ogden, C. L. (2012). Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and extreme obesity among adults: United States, trends 1960-1962 through 2009-2010. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_adult_09_10/obesity_adult_09_10.pdf

Hruby, A., & Hu, F. B. (2015). The Epidemiology of Obesity: A Big Picture. PharmacoEconomics33(7), 673–689. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4859313/

US Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). A brief history of USDA food guides. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/brief-history-usda-food-guides

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