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Obesity in the U.S. -- A perfect storm

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By Sheilah Downey

As childhood obesity numbers continue to swell to button-popping proportions, scientists predicted the "perfect storm" that has brewed the overweight epidemic facing America's children today.

Obesity rates have escalated in almost half of the 50 states and the childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1980, says a report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released Wednesday.

A collection of studies published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in September of 2007 studied the obesity epidemic and suggested environmental factors and public policies are fueling the problem and compromising children's health.

"We have in our schools and communities a perfect storm that will continue to feed the childhood obesity epidemic until we adopt policies that improve the health of our communities and our kids," said Dr. Frank Chaloupka, professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a statement to Reuters.

Deciphering the causes of the obesity epidemic is not rocket science -- too little exercise and too many calories. But scientists in the study cited adverse environmental factors that contributed to the problem. Fast-food restaurants and convenience stores that proliferate neighborhoods throughout the country mean kids are tempted to eat less-healthy food.

Scientists also found that kids are bombarded by TV commercials touting sweets and fast-food franchises. In a study of more than 200,000 ads of top-rated shows for teens aged 12 to 17 years, more than 23 percent of all ads were for fast-food, the study found.

Also fueling the problem is that teens have ready-access to high-fat, sugary foods and drinks at their schools, say researchers.

The third cloud in this perfect storm, said scientists, is that schools are less likely to require physical education to older teens.

While 87 percent of 13 to 14-year olds were required to take P.E. classes at schools, only 20 percent of 17 to 18-year olds were required to take the classes.

Answers to the problem, said Dr. Jeff Levi, Executive Director of the TFAH, are not easily found but sorely needed.

"There has been a breakthrough in terms of drawing attention to the obesity epidemic, said Levi. "Now we need a breakthrough in terms of policies and results. Poor nutrition and physical activity are robbing America of our health and productivity."


The TFAH report was based on data from 2004 to 2006 taken by the Centers for Disease Control. CDC studies say that obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5 to 17-year-olds from a 2006 study, 70 percent of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor.

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Subscribe to comments feed Comments (33 posted):

Janet w. on 07/04/2009 15:13:14
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The gist of Michael Pollan's book, "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" as inscribed on the front cover says it all: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

The problem today is too much of what we buy and eat today is not food.
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Frank E. on 07/04/2009 15:19:46
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I'm always amazed watching 300lb+ people at the checkout line with baskets full of sugared soda, chips, cookies, candy, etc. And mostly likely diabetic or heading that way. I don't mind paying extra for health care but not for people who could care less about their own health.
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Mcgee on 07/04/2009 15:21:07
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"I'm a level 5 vegan, I won't eat anything that casts a shadow."

But really though, I would eat hamburgers for Breakfast lunch and dinner if i could.
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Joe Marcucilli on 07/04/2009 15:22:05
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We need to lower the cost of fish,vegetables,and fruit so lower income families can afford it.We need to place more pressure on fast food restaurants to promote a more vegetarian type of menu, and we need to lessen the proportions of food we eat.
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Ali on 07/04/2009 15:33:09
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Let's face it mom and/or dads. We control the purse string. When going to the grocery store, read the labels. Check food content. It is also revealed on that piece of paper connected to the food item. It may take longer to shop, but it means responsible shopping, caring for your family.
Tilapia is on sale all the time - $3.99 a lb. Salmon is on sale as well. clip coupons. There is no excuse for not eating healthy. But don't forget to splurge once in awhile!
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Jordan Boehler on 07/04/2009 15:35:26
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The strongest correlates here seem to be the obsession with safety and the convenience of recent technology; Many Americans have become fat screen-addicted wimps.
If it was the age of television that bred the ADD issue in todays children, one might say it was the age of video game that's intensifying this 'crisis' of obesity...

Does anyone remember playing outside as a kid, [in the words of the late Carlin,] "Diggin' a hole with a a stick"?
Why might one feel that this activity would be classified as autistic in today's America?

In a convenient, consistently logged-on America, one need not be fit.
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karen c on 07/04/2009 15:35:42
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With so many obese adults who think that being a two hundred pound woman is the norm, what else can we expect. My 140lb 5'4" friend (hardly skin and bones herself) went to a ten fifteen year high school reunion and was the slimmest of all of the women. After the event some of the women asked her if she was ill because she was so slight...Our perception needs an adjustment before we can see obesity as a death sentence for our kids
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vorganos on 07/04/2009 15:40:44
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ok america herez the solution to obesity... ready eat less and move more... simple right unfortunatly no because we like to make excuses about how we r big boned and have thyroid problems.... oh stop smoking 2... oh and dont do drugs and stay in school fool.. like mr T use to say
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GedneyGram on 07/04/2009 15:43:38
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Well, what can we do? The free market is at work here, right? And heaven forbid the the evil government try to interfere!! Not blaming conservative views here, but here is an example of the free market not working to the country's need to have healthy future citizens.
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phyllis n. on 07/04/2009 15:47:37
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The future as shown in the move Wall-E is coming true: we will soon become too fat to walk.

One factor is our high fructose corn syrup diet. Watch the move King Korn.

Another factor: we are living in a nation going downhill, and eating gives us comfort.
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ali on 07/04/2009 15:54:31
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Excuses..excuses..excuses. You all are talking about the information age, the videos, informational commercials that 'lead' us to binge. That's all b.s.
Computers, videos, the conveniences of technology -- all this is fabulous.
Get some exercise and eat the right foods. Pack your kid's lunch if what's in the cafeteria is junk. That's what I do for my tween.

Stop blaming computers, videos, and all that stuff for obesity. That's b.s. and just a bunch of excuses.

Buy a trampoline for your yard and watch the kids come in flocks. Let your kids stay outside and play. The kids in our neighborhood are called in the outside by their mom/s because they want them to do stuff in the house. The poor kids cry to stay outside.

The problem is dysfunctional parenting amoung all socio economic status groups...that's truly the heart of problem. Stop blaming it on things/objects...
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Lamont Cranston on 07/04/2009 15:59:58
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Eliminate all government subsidy for hamburgers, from cattle ranching to the purchase; tax breaks to ranchers, water prices, all the public money that makes cheap burgers possible.
Simply have a hamburger reflect the cost of production.
Let the price of a burger quintuple, and suddenly the fruit and veggies will look much more appealing.
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Nancy on 07/04/2009 16:07:36
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This problem could take us down as a country. It's that serious. Overweight and obese people are costing all of us. One of the shocking things to me is that of the overweight and obese people I know most of them do not even acknowledge that they are overweight! They are huge but it has become such the norm. Those that do realize they are too fat always have some excuse. They say they have a thyroid problem (very few actually do) or that it's hereditary or it's because of their job, etc., etc., etc. ad naseum. Look at a school yearbook from the 70's and look at school yearbooks today if you really want a shock. There is a website that showed portion sizes (with calories) from the 70's vs now. It's no wonder people are fat. Everything is supersized and not just at fast food restaurants. Parents are supersizing the portions at home.
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Lucien Desar on 07/04/2009 16:27:03
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It's very easy to stay in shape. Eat less and exercise more. It's not complicated but it does involve work for 30-40 minutes a day. I don't think it's the responsibility of the government to ensure it's citizen's are not fat. Everyone should take their own personal responsibility for their bodies and to ensure their children learn likewise.
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Ken on 07/04/2009 19:19:18
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GedneyGram, what in the world does conservatives vs. liberal have to do with being fat! It's called "personal responsibility"! Obviously you don't accept all you should, because it's easier for you to blame conservatives.

and Ali....!!! What are you talking about by saying "read the label"?!?! If something has a label, other than Un-breaded frozen fish, DON'T BOTHER PICKING IT UP!!! Labels come on boxes, bags & cans, not on God's food!
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on 07/04/2009 19:55:06
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Individuals can do our part, but there is a public policy part too. Like subsidies for junk food farm products. Everyone getting more obese is good business for Big Food and Big Pharm. More of the government is devoted to those, than is devoted to mopping up the consequences. Vote Ron Paul.
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b on 07/05/2009 00:10:26
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The next stage is destabilization. This time the subverter does not care about your ideas and the patterns of your consumption, whether you eat junk food and get fat and flabby doesn’t matter anymore. This time — and it takes only from two to five years to destabilize a nation — what matters is essentials. Economy, foreign relations, defense systems. And you can see quite clearly that in some areas, in such sensitive areas as defense and economy, the influence of Marxist-Leninist ideas in the United States is absolutely fantastic. I could never believe it fourteen years ago when I landed in this part of the world that the process would go that fast. Yuri Bezmenov, Demoralization of America
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Kellie Glass RD, LD on 07/05/2009 12:44:33
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As a Registered Dietitian, I am a firm believer that healthy nutrition starts at home. It is up to parents to make healthy choices and lead active lifestyles. In my book, "How to Eat Fried Chicken and Be Thin Too" I address the 4 most important components to an overall healthy lifestyle. If anyone is interested in more information, the book can be found on Amazon.com or at Strategic Book Publishing
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Scott on 07/06/2009 11:16:32
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One way to improve diets is with the guide "Healthy Highways."
This is the second edition of the popular healthy eating guide from best- selling food writers Nikki & David Goldbeck. This new edition has 1000 new listings for a total of 2800 – all verified. Exclusive local driving directions guide you to each listing.
cool stuff also at healthyhighways.com
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Rick Osbourne on 07/06/2009 12:09:30
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Here's a systematic, low budget, and documentable solution. Start young (pre-school or kindergarten), help all kids learn to physically pull their own weight (do pull ups). Once mastered, help them to maintain the ability through graduation. Grads who can physically pull their own weight are naturally immunized against obesity for life as long as they maintain the ability. Tell Arne Duncan!
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Zatapa on 07/29/2009 17:22:23
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What people in America don't seem to realise is that the problems are not only related to the changes in lifestyle that have taken place the past decade(s). It all starts at the food industry. The US Government actively campaign against obesity while at the same time supporting producers of unhealthy GM seeds, crops and food additives (e.g. Monsanto). That's where the greater part of diseases start.
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rapid4me on 11/17/2009 14:22:48
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I haven't been to your site for quite a long period of time and at last visited it! Needless to say, you are good at what you do, I always read all your articles with pleasure. With the numerous blogs, forums and social sites, it is not always easy to find really worthy info! Thanks!
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Soft on 12/18/2009 10:54:27
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Problems of obesity in the United States. It is really important. It is a pity that many hesitate to talk about it in the ear!
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Soft on 12/18/2009 10:55:47
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Problems of obesity in the United States. It is really important. It is a pity that many hesitate to talk about it in the ear!
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online pharmacy canada on 12/30/2009 14:07:42
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really useful info. Thanks
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Orkut Scraps on 01/22/2010 10:22:17
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Data from the NHANES surveys (1976-1980 and 2003-2006) show that the prevalence of obesity has increased for children of 2-5 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 12.4% for people 6-11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 17.0% and for those aged 12-19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 17.6%
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Hollywood Wallpapers on 02/22/2010 18:59:52
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The prevalence of adults in the U.S. who are obese remains high, with about one third of obese adults in 2007-2008, although new data suggest that the rate of increase of obesity in the U.S. in recent decades may be slowing, according to a study appearing in the Jan. 20 issue of JAMA. The study was published early online because of its importance in public health
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cost of humira on 06/06/2010 13:39:40
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We require not battle obesity... most fat and 'obese' individuals who I do know are IN BETTER HEALTH than the individuals who are narrow or underweight for their body size and type.
Same thing for 'battling cigarettes'... it is only the PACK A DAY or MORE smokers who are having the extreme health issues.
Same thing for 'battling alcohol'... it is only the individuals who take it to excessive drinking who are having issues..... and they are finding out now, some individuals who issues they think are from drinking heavily so they require a liver transplant..... NOPE! Their livers are fine, it turns out that they got Hepatitis or another illness and THAT'S why their livers started failing.
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Stride Rite on 07/18/2010 08:46:53
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Agree with you 100% at best MLB than some other things but not as good as others, but rather with where you are in relation to things.
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Dallas Auto Glass on 07/29/2010 17:30:29
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