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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Finally, someone's getting a clue

We have all heard or read about the growing dimensions of the American population. The present estimate is that two-thirds (roughly 67%) of American adults are technically obese, which means their body mass index (BMI) is 30 kg/m2 or greater. Along with the expanding waistlines is a rising health toll by way of an overall increase in heart disease and diabetes 2 and a concomitant decrease in life expectancy. Even the children aren't exempt from the adult-like complications brought on by obesity, including hardening of the arteries and the occurrence of what was once termed "adult-onset" diabetes. And the number of obese Americans is increasing along with the scale numbers.

Those disproportionately affected have always been the poor, especially among African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. And it's not hard to figure out why. In the last decades, healthy foods have become a premium and much less affordable. For a family budgeting for rent and utilities, food choices are made by price and not necessarily by fat or caloric content. This saves pennies, but in the end, costs so much more.

Also, in poorer neighborhoods you are more likely to find several fast food joints to any one greengrocer. And the offerings by the local grocer are piddling to nothing compared to a market in a more affluent area.

As for exercise, the option of a nightly walk to burn off calories is not easily available to those living in areas where personal safety is a question. And don't get into the issue of costly and inconveniently located gyms and health clubs.

Now, (finally) scientists, doctors and health officials are trying to address this quandary by closing the nutrition gap between the well-off and the not-so-well-off. Some proffered solutions are vegetable subsidies for the poor and a junk food tax which would be used to lower the costs of vegetables and be directed to anti-obesity programs. More education about healthier choices that are in line with a low-income budget has also been suggested. Also, grants for health projects may help ameliorate the obesity epidemic.

It is good to know that progressive steps are being taken to aid those who need a little extra help. Eventually, no matter our income levels, we're all in this together because increased health costs are passed on to everyone.

Even though the poor and low-income families are more subject to obesity, a new study conducted by the University of Iowa and presented at a recent meeting of the American Heart Association says that Americans with incomes at or above $60,000 are becoming as obese as those with less income.

Why are the affluent, who have always had more access to quality foods and nutritional education, now gaining along with the rest of Americans? The study suggests that the computerization of the workplace where workers spend long hours at their desks is one reason. Also, longer commutes often mean less time to cook a healthy meal, so the affluent opt for restaurants, just as poorer families opt for the convenience of a fast food meal.

In the end, a solution has to be found for all, whether it's a decrease in portion sizes, more healthy food outlets, additional nutrition programs, or junk food tax subsidies. Hopefully, the decrease in our waistlines will result in an increase in our health.

Per Salon.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 9/28/2005 06:28:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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