IT Employment

General discussion


Obesity a killer?

By jkaras ·
'We're just too darn fat'
Obesity rivals tobacco as top preventable killer in U.S.

By Tamara Lytle | Sentinel Bureau Chief
Posted March 10, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Americans are eating themselves into early graves, according to a federal study released Tuesday that found obesity kills more people than drugs, alcohol, guns, AIDS, pollution and car accidents combined.

Health officials said two-thirds of Americans were overweight, and obesity could soon pass tobacco as the nation's No. 1 preventable killer.

About 400,000 people died from poor diet and lack of exercise in 2000 -- a 33 percent increase in a decade, according to the study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We're just too darn fat, ladies and gentlemen," said Tommy Thompson, the Health and Human Services secretary. He put himself and his entire department on a diet to set an example.

Thompson, who has lost 15 pounds and has 10 more to go to reach his goal of 185, said Americans "need to understand that overweight and obesity are literally killing us."

Overweight is defined as having a body-mass index of 25. A person is considered obese when that number hits 30 or more -- which is about 30 extra pounds for a woman of average height and 35 to 40 pounds for a man. Body-mass index, or BMI, measures the relationship between a person's weight and height.

Fat is costing the country $117 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity, according to health officials. Corpulence increases the chances of developing hypertension, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Thompson unveiled an ad campaign aimed at fighting the obesity epidemic with humor.

In one ad, a shopping cart gets stuck on a double chin, which was dropped near a supermarket produce display. Another has a mall shopper turning in a pair of love handles found near the stairs. "Lots of people lost them taking the stairs instead of the escalator," a clerk says.

The secretary also said the National Institutes of Health will step up research into obesity.

"We are dealing with a public-health emergency," NIH head Elias Zerhouni said.

But U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona said "the good news is it's all preventable."

Reining in lawsuits

The fat blame game also is playing out in the courts, Congress and the Florida Legislature.

Consumers will not be able to sue and blame the food and restaurant industries for their obesity under a bill approved Tuesday by a state Senate committee. The measure has been approved by the Florida House.

And today, the U.S. House is expected to pass a similar bill by Rep. Ric Keller, R-Orlando.

Keller, a yo-yo dieter who loves a Wendy's triple cheeseburger and Biggie fries, said it's his choice to ignore the warnings of nutritionists when he downs his high-calorie lunch.

"I would defy you to name any fast food I do not absolutely love. [But] it's my choice," said the rotund Keller. "There should be common sense in a food court, not blaming people in a legal court."

Attorneys who successfully sued the tobacco industry for pushing a deadly addictive substance have now set their sights on fast food and other junk-food purveyors. Pushing their message, a new movie will document the weight gain of a man who ate McDonald's food three times a day for a month.

Some restaurants have responded by making more nutrition information available and offering healthful alternatives. McDonald's recently announced it will no longer offer Super Size drinks and fries.

A Super Size Coke and fries, for instance, adds up to 1,020 calories -- about half a day's worth -- without an entr?e. Ruby Tuesday announced Tuesday that it will now list fat and calories on the menu to help diners make more-healthful choices.

Shannon McAleavey, a spokeswoman for Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, said it's not fair to blame restaurants for the obesity epidemic.

"As long as we are offering the gamut from healthy to indulgent, we are doing our part in giving consumers choices," said McAleavey, whose company owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, among other restaurants. "Obesity is a much more complicated thing than eating in restaurants."

But a barrage of advertisements and promotions such as toys for children make it hard for parents to counter the allure of fast food, said Phyllis Magrab, head of Georgetown University's Center for Children and Human Development. Children are twice as likely to be fat as they were in 1980, according to HHS, which said 9 million children are overweight or obese.

Magrab said public pressure has led to some of the more-healthful menu options in restaurants.

Industry under fire

But John Banzhaf, a public-interest law professor at George Washington University, said the real change is from lawsuits.

Banzhaf, who led the charge of tobacco lawsuits, said that even though no restaurants have been successfully sued for causing obesity, healthful changes are being made.

"Very clearly, the lawsuits are working," he said.

Keller predicted his bill will pass overwhelmingly today. An identical Senate bill has not yet come up for a vote.

"Litigation isn't going to make a single person skinnier," said Keller, an Orlando lawyer before he was elected to Congress in 2000. "It's only going to make trial lawyers' wallets fatter."

But Jeff Cronin of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit nutrition group, said the food and restaurant industries don't need special protection. "The inside of a courtroom is one of the last remaining things to keep corporations on their best behavior."

Brendan Flanagan, lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association, said his industry is braced for years of suits.

"They're trying to dictate to consumers what they feel are appropriate eating habits," he said. "It's clear consumers don't want trial lawyers telling them what they should or shouldn't eat."

Keller's bill bars lawsuits charging companies with causing obesity. But it allows other lawsuits, such as those on untruthful nutrition listings or faulty products.

Cronin said the restaurant and food industries are wielding clout from their political campaign donations.

Keller has received $170,000 from the restaurant and food-and-beverage industries during his three congressional campaigns. He received the fifth-largest amount in Congress from the restaurant business for the 2004 election, including $11,750 from Darden.

But Keller said trial lawyers -- who stand to lose from the bill -- are much more powerful in Washington than restaurants. "I could raise a ton more money by opposing this bill."

This was on the front page of our local paper. It gave statistics of 64% of American population 129.6 mil. either overweight or obese, 9 mil. children obese, $1 in $5 will be spent in ages over 50-69 for obese related medical expenses, 400,000 deaths from poor diet and physical inactivity claimed the CDC to name a few. When will the frivolous lawsuits end and people take responsibility for their actions? When will the rediculous talks of obesity be quelled? In my opinion most people take really good care of themselves. I see this in older aged people that have better bodies than most people in their thirties, and teenagers having model bodies. Granted there are some overweight people and massivly overweight people and those who dont really care but isnt this more of wanting a perfectly beautiful society and not about health issues. Basically guilt to be better that proliferates our society causing people to be ashamed and go to extremes to be liked like stomach stapling, and taking wonder pills? I am not what I used to be now in my thirties but I keep active going to the gym on a semi frequent basis because I want to remain healthy and inactivity is the real killer not what I eat per se. They also give other statistics of deaths in 90 and 2000.
19% 90s 18.1% 2000
poor diet inactivity
14% 90s 16.6% 2000
Alcohol consumption
5% 90s 3.5% 2000
microbial agents
4% 90s 3.1% 2000
toxic agents
3% 90s 2.3% 2000
car accidents
1% 90s 1.8% 2000
gun related
2% 90s 1.2% 2000
sexual behavior
1% 90s .08% 2000
drug use
less than 1% 90s .07% 2000
all according to the Journal of Amer. Medical Association.

This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

Thread display: Collapse - | Expand +

All Comments

Collapse -

The hunger crisis is just one facet of the mental health crisis

by DC_GUY In reply to Life is a journey. . . . ...

"Doesn't it seem rater ironic that, on one hand, the do-gooders claim that about two-thirds of Americans are overweight, but on the other hand, some other do-gooders claim that there's a hunger crisis in America?"

There is no hunger crisis in America to speak of. The only people who actually go hungry are the ones who simply don't have the sense to navigate our rather generous informal charity system. Almost all of the hungry people you meet on the street invariably pick up enough spare change to stay fed. Just stop and notice that very few of them are anywhere near as skinny as Jessica Simpson!

The unfed ones are the ones who were turned out of the mental hospitals wholesale about thirty years ago. That was a tough call: Does society have the right to keep people in the looney bin against their will, or do looney people have the right to live life according to their own looney standards, even if it means risking dying of hunger or exposure? We've experimented with both answers. Neither seems exactly heart-warming.

America's poor lack roofs and beds and cars and lots of stuff, but unless they're poor AND looney, they don't lack food. This statistic bears repeating: The leading nutritional problem among America's poor people is obesity. You really have to work hard at it to die of hunger in the USA.

Collapse -

I agree - good point

by maxwell edison In reply to The hunger crisis is just ...

My "ironic" comments were certainly tongue-in-cheek, as I'm sure you probably know.

Concerning the "hungry", I'm sure that there are families who struggle to make ends meet, but there are both government and private food distribution agencies, as well as the food stamp program, to help them. (Personally, I would prefer to rely totally on private charities to fill such functions, at least as the first option.)

As to the mentally ill, you make an excellent point. And being one who (almost) never met a government social program I wouldn't scrap, caring for the mentally ill is not one of them. I remember when the Carter administration supported an act that shifted responsibility for mental illness care programs to the states. It resulted in a flood of "homeless" people who couldn't care for themselves, as the doors to many mental institutions were opened and the patients were "pushed" out. Since most families are ill-equipped to adequately deal with the various mental illness issues, whether it's funded by the feds or the states, it's one government program that would get my support.

Collapse -

To institutionalize or not to institutionalize

by DC_GUY In reply to I agree - good point

I knew several people who worked in mental institutions during the pre-Carter era. For every one inmate who was glad for the help they wouldn't have gotten otherwise and was relieved to be purged of their demons, there were a hundred who were simply drugged into tractability and waiting to die.

We all were convinced that the mass institutionalization was practiced not to help the mentally ill, but to spare the rest of us the experience of seeing them shouting on the street corners. It's hard to say which life the person would have chosen in a lucid moment, because if they were prone to having lucid moments they would be a different person.

Feeling as you do about the diseconomy, inaccuracy, and disastrous second-order effects of government charity, I vote reluctantly for giving them their freedom as long as the worst thing they do is shouting on the street corner and being unskilled at panhandling.

I must say that having them be part of my life makes me appreciate my good luck just a little bit more. Perhaps they're unintentionally doing humanity a big favor. What more can any of us aspire to?

Collapse -

Not one institution fits all

by maxwell edison In reply to To institutionalize or no ...

I would never suggest institutionalizing, per se, anyone and everyone with any mental illness. I'm no expert by any means, but I might break it down into three different categories.

First, those who have some form mental illness or mental deficiency, but can still function relatively well in society. Perhaps they can even hold a job and be somewhat productive, but nonetheless, their needs can be met by either themselves or their families (or a combination of both). We often see these folks working at the Goodwill type facilities, or perhaps, even in mainstream corporate America. This includes the gal who answers the phone and takes the orders from people ordering pizza at a local pizza joint. (Yes, I've ordered pizza from her many times.)

The second category would be the exact opposite end of the spectrum. These are the folks who just don't have any grasp of reality at all. They may be a danger to themselves or to others, and any prognosis for recovery might fall somewhere between slim and none. These would fall into the "institutionalized" category, not only for their own benefit and protection, but for society's as well.

The remaining category would be all those who fall somewhere in-between. They might not be a danger to themselves or to others, but they might be an easy target for scoundrels and/or have trouble functioning in society. They can't really hold a productive job (for whatever reason), but their intentions would lead them to that desired end. I would imagine that these folks could be given some semblance of a comfortable life in some sort of camp, perhaps an old military base. They could live and work there under the guidance of those who can help them help themselves. Heck, the guidance could even be provided, in part, by volunteers who just want to help those less fortunate. They would be pretty much free to come and go as they please, but, in the very least, they'd have a place to go at the end of the day or to get a hot meal. Moreover, if any of them becomes a nuisance to society, this could be a place where they could be taken for the necessary counseling, medical care, housing, and so on. But I think leaving them out on the streets to fend for themselves borderlines on cruel. Not that I'm suggesting that your method or intention is cruel. In that regard, we probably agree, but it might be a matter of perspective and/or severity of the circumstance.

You touched on something quite profound, however, when you said, "I must say that having them be part of my life makes me appreciate my good luck just a little bit more. Perhaps they're unintentionally doing humanity a big favor. What more can any of us aspire to?"

This reminds me of something I've considered when someone questions the "goodness" of God by creating such imperfection. How can He be a perfect and loving and compassionate God by creating such cruel imperfection? The answer is that He is not seeking or expecting the perfection from the mentally ill, but rather in others by how they relate to and care for them. The downs syndrome boy in Nebraska, for example, who just wanted to be on the high school wrestling team. As much as he wanted to, he could never win a match, as his mental and physical limitations presented too much of a challenge. But God's desired goodness was found in the school's state wrestling champion who let this boy pin him to the mat so he could win the trophy (true story).

I've always said that we're a generous and compassionate people, and we should care for those who truly can't care for themselves. I think it's a darn shame, however, when those who choose not to care for themselves gets confused with or lumped together with those who truly can not.

Collapse -

Well said Max

by Oz_Media In reply to Life is a journey. . . . ...

No taunts, no comments no slams from me.

Very well said.

Ultimately, we conceive children, we raise children, we feed children most of thier lives. WE are responsible, nobody else, WE are.

It's also dangerous for me to play soccer on the highway (don't get excited), I don't because my parents taught me not to. acording to what people expect these days, I could kick a ball on the road, get hit by a truck and sue the government for not telling me it was dangerous.

Where are the parents in all this? Are they claiming to be vicims too? Safeway sells at least 30 different types of cookies, if I buy the 300+ packages on display and eat them in an afternoon, are they now responsible for making them available to me?

Damn, parents can be so stupid sometimes.

Collapse -

After I took a few valium at seeing OZ agree with Max

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Well said Max

I thought about his question about where are the parents now days. Well that is an easy one the current Government Laws which where brought in to protect these children have the opposite effect by preventing the parents in bringing them up the way they would like to.

Smack a child playing up in public and see how long it is before you have a whole heard of Social Workers knocking you're door down to protect the child {and I'm do not mean beat the kid up nothing more than a smack here.} As a society we seen to have somehow given these roles over to Government Agencies who are unable to handle them at all but follow the book and usually manage to wreck the kids life if they survive at all.

We are supposed to reason with our children and never under any circumstances ever allow physical punishment! Just try to reason with a toddler who it trying to pull a pot of boiling water off a stove I for one think a painless smack is a lot kinder than allowing them to and then having to pay for all the medical bills not to mention the suffering that goes along with being covered in boiling water.

While we do need Laws in place to protect children from abuse we also have to qualify what constitutes "Abuse" in the first place.

I can vividly remember attending a Parents Night at a High School where a Social Worker was discussing child abuse and the only positive thing that I learned that night was that if I was to change my infant daughters shitty nappy I would be "Sexually Abusing" her and if I didn't change it I would be "Neglecting" her. Now when my kids where that age I honestly did everything possible to avoid doing this type of thing not because I was afraid of any claims latter but I just didn't enjoy it. Granted I would as a last resort but it was always a last resort and I for one am unable to see just how anyone could become "Sexually Excited" by doing this.

Anyway I'm way off topic again so I'll leave it there.


Collapse -

Actually Colin

by Oz_Media In reply to After I took a few valium ...

I don't think it's that odd for me to agree with Max, I have agreed with him on several views (if not wholy at least partially), except political of course but that's not the edge here.

in Canada, we can smack our kids. They just dragged that one through the courts again and it has been upheld, we can hit our kids as long as it isn't with (I think, a ruler, stick, strap and uuuuhhhh, a couple mroe specific noted items.) This allows a teacher to grab a kid and throw him out of classs if needed, drag him/her to the principals office etc. I remember an incident in music class where I ended up going toe to toe with the teacher, we both gave and took a few good shots and got a good talking to by the principal but nobody was fined or anything.

No I didn't get sexually excited from hitting the dummy either, old fart I can STILL picture his stupid face in my mind, and all because we had one of those 'slap' "pass it on" things going down the line and a girl was beside me, I didn't belt her but as I was participating and timing was bad one thing lead to another and the old fart and I were going at it pretty good.

I don't hold it against the teacher (well I sorts do) but the fight was fair and mutual, well he grabed me first but that's no relevant, I smacked him back first.

Canada rocks that way, people are understood by the government and left out of the equation, not controlled by it. Sure we pay too much in tax but it's worth it to be left alone.

Same in England (from what I remember), you can toss you kids around if the act up and if they complain everyone just tells them they shouldn't have played up in the first place.

Collapse -


by voldar In reply to Actually Colin

Oz, you are right here. And if I am not mistaken, the law says something like: "reasonable force".
Any way, as for my childhood, I had some "smacks", but I well deserved them, and I never thought my parents act against me. It's b...**** to think other way. They are here (the parents) to help/guide you, not to hurt you. I don't talk here about the "abuse", which is something that not even animals do!

And, yes, I remember a film about monkeys and one gave a smack to her little one, only to show him that "you can't do this!". Even animals have their rules, natural, hidden, normal rules.

About the "fat" thing ... hmmm ... the food has its role, yes ... but it is not only the food. It's also about a lack of information and self esteem. I don't talk here about the 10% that have medical problems!!
And, for that, this lack of information, as much time as everybody at the TV says it's good to eat MacDo and so on, you don't ask yourself if it's good or right. You just eat!
When u are not guided (the parents in the first and most import part of your life), you'll never know until maybe it is too late.
It's the society that has changed that much, that some "old things" are barely remembered. Proper manners, how to behave and yes, how to eat!! But as I said above, it's not a personal fault, it's the whole society that drove you towards this. Humans are very sociable "creatures", they like to talk, but still, sometimes, it seams to me, they forgotten how to reason, how to think on their own what is best for each of them, as individuals. (tough words, but sincerely, I start thinking if I am 100% wrong - if anybody feels offended, I apologize from start)

Collapse -

The problem here is "Reasonable Force" as this

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Actually Colin

Means different things to different people. I'm the first to agree that a "Smack" is at the very least character building and it certainly never hurt me one little bit. But the problem arises when others wittiness the action some will just not see it some will think well there goes a "Good" parent/adult and then there are the fringe fanatics who only see abuse and will go running to the Child Support Agencies to have the child protected, they are the dangerous ones.

What annoyes me is the fact that they can report you and the Authorities have to investigate which is OK with me even though a lot of them are one eyed bigots particularly when it comes to males but when there is no case to answer the person who reported the matter gets away Scott Free I think they should be made to wear some if not all of the costs for wasting the peoples time.

Also there is always the fact that you are then placed on the "At Risk" register and constantly being looked in on. I just hate the idea that one person who dislikes you is capable of making multiple reports and just the shear number of reports could lead to the "State" grabbing you're kids for their own protection.


Collapse -

Love it !

by Oz_Media In reply to The problem here is "Reas ...

I love the way that instead of referring to the political aspects or "what should be" you look at the reality of the situation.

Just becuase there is a set of rules, doesn't mean that's what actually happens.

There is a stark reality to most of these things that our governments and it's representatives get away with that breach everything that is put in place. Reality almost always outshines the written word or laws.

What should or should not be isn't always what is so. You see the right side of things, the reality.

Related Discussions

Related Forums