A 21st-century epidemic

Published 1:41 am Sunday, July 10, 2011

There was quite a contrast of gastronomical stories making news during the first week of July.
On Monday, the nation watched as Joey Chestnut claimed his fifth consecutive Yellow Mustard Belt by consuming (more appropriately inhaling) 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes at the Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York. That’s slightly more than one hot dog every 10 seconds.
On Thursday, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its annual report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011.” Mississippi ranked as the fattest state in the nation for the seventh year in a row with 34.4 percent of its citizens identified as obese. Colorado qualified as the trimmest state in the nation with a 19.8 percent obesity rate.
In a contest where you don’t want to be No. 1, North Carolina came in 14th at 29.4 percent.
The most alarming aspect of the report was the long-term analysis. Twenty years ago, no state was over 15 percent while now only one state is below 20 percent.
In 38 of the 50 states, obesity rates have topped 25 percent. Seven states have seen obesity rates double since 1995. Ten states have reported increases over 90 percent.
It’s frightful to think where we will be as a nation in 2031.
“Today, the state with the lowest obesity rate would have had the highest rate in 1995,” said Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of TFAH. “There was a clear tipping point in our national weight gain over the last 20 years, and we can’t afford to ignore the impact obesity has on our health and corresponding health care spending.”
The impact of obesity goes well beyond appearance. Data indicates increases in hypertension and diabetes across the nation that can be attributed to obesity. Forty-three states now have diabetes rates over 7 percent while hypertension levels top 20 percent in all 50 states.
The medical issues, in turn, become financial issues for us all.
Obesity has become a preventable 21st-century epidemic that must be taken seriously. Both our physical and financial health depends on it.