Currently in the United States, 70.2% of the American population is either obese or overweight (1). Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30+, while being overweight signals a BMI of 25+ (2).  This may not be a surprise to many, but we have to examine this statistic closely to understand the harmful health impacts it could have on society. Heart disease —the number one cause of death in the United States (3)— is primarily caused by the negative health effects that arise from obesity (4). Ultimately, we must educate ourselves on the potentially life-threatening health consequences of obesity.

Many factors contribute to this health epidemic, but many are tied to the convenience and enjoyment factor; many sources of entertainment and enjoyment are unhealthy and easily accessible.

One of those many issues that contributes towards the widespread obesity in the United States is that the food which contributes towards obesity is easily accessible. With the growing popularity of fast foods, the opportunities to lead an unhealthy lifestyle are becoming greater than ever before (5).  Fast food restaurants are omnipresent in highways, cities, and the countryside (6). This convenient accessibility to the unhealthy food served at fast food restaurants, when combined with the food’s relative affordability, makes it easy for people to order an unhealthy meal at a fast food restaurant. In the United States, 34% of children between the ages of 2 and 19 consume fast food daily (7). This is extremely unhealthy as fast food is comprised of many of the worst and most unhealthy ingredients such as palm oil, high fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated oil (8).  Eating this food consistently can lead to the obesity and harmful heart effects. In addition, fast food is addictive and can create unhealthy patterns in a person’s life.  Its convenience, relatively cheap prices, and addictive nature of its ingredients such as sugar makes it relatively easy to become hooked on fast food (9).  A prolonged addiction to the unhealthiness of fast food can eventually create consistent unhealthy habits, which often can contribute to obesity and weight-gain. Eating fast food occasionally – just once a week – is permissible; however, eating fast food more than twice a week has been proven to cause weight gain and insulin resistance among young adults (10).

Another cause of obesity in America is the presence of digital and electronic forms of entertainment (11). The increase in popularity of these forms of inactive entertainment like television, video games, and online entertainment causes many people to remain physically stagnant throughout the day. This idleness can have harmful health impacts. The disuse of a person’s muscles can increase the person’s blood glucose levels, as the inactive muscles no longer need to take up as much sugar from the blood to function (11).

Obesity can lead to consequences like heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and increased risk of certain cancers (12). In addition, many people who struggle with obesity are more at risk for depression and anxiety (13). The bottom line is this: obesity can ultimately cause undesired negative health effects, which can hurt people both physically and mentally.

While there are several reasons why people struggle with obesity, there are still many changes that can be made to improve that person’s health regardless of his or her background. Healthier eating habits and daily exercise can be implemented into most people’s lives and can result in drastic positive health effects. If healthy eating is not affordable depending on a person’s situation, there are many cheap options. Brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread, and non-fat yogurt all cost less than $2 for a typical standard size at a supermarket store (14). There are also many other cheap and healthy options available. And if these foods are still not affordable, at the very least some form of exercise can be implemented into almost all people’s lives. Taking even just a thirty-minute walk daily has many health benefits like a decreased risk of high-blood sugar and a healthier body composition (15).

If Americans are more educated on obesity’s significant health effects, they may be more likely to make healthier decisions. In addition, by understanding the causes of the problem, Americans can identify specific bad practices in their lives and start making committed changes to these habits. Ultimately, a movement for Americans to perform more healthy habits, like former First-Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, may lead to greater positive health effects around the country, making us healthier as a whole (16).

Alec is a first-year in Thayer

Works Cited

[1] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity (accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[2] Center for Disease Control. www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html (accessed Oct. 15, 2018).

[3] MedicalNewsToday. www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php (accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[4] World Health Organization. www.who.int/features/qa/49/en/ (accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[5] TransparencyMarketResearch. www.transparencymarketresearch.com/article/
global-fast-food-market.htm
(accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[6] Statista. www.statista.com/statistics/196619
/total-number-of-fast-food-restaurants-in-the-us-since-2002/
(accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[7] Toasttab. pos.toasttab.com/blog/10-fast-food-industry-statistics (accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[8]  TheBetterHealthStore. www.thebetterhealthstore.com/
043011_top-ten-toxic-ingredients-in-processed-food_01.html
(accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[9] Psychology Today. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/you-illuminated/201108/
7-reasons-we-cant-turn-down-fast-food
(accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[10] ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050104105659.htm (accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[11] LiveScience. www.livescience.com/15324-ssedentary-behavior-health-risks.html (accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[12] World Health Organization. www.who.int/features/qa/49/en/ (accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[13] Healthline. www.healthline.com/health/depression/obesity-and-depression (accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[14] WebMD. www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/
cheap-healthy-15-nutritious-foods-about-2-dollars#2
(accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[15] Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/
the-many-benefits-of-walking-30-minutes-a-day/2015/10/19/

cf12c938-71e1-11e5-9cbb-790369643cf9_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.
6fd016ed8696
(accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

[16] Let’s Move!. letsmove.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/ (accessed Oct. 14, 2018).

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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