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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.

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by Oz_Media In reply to Girl Scout Cookies

In Canada we get the vanilla/chocolate ones, OLD style. They tried doing the mint wafer thing for a few years but nobody wanted them and begged for the old cookies. They have gone back to the creams centers again, MMMMMMMM, when's cookie time?? It must be coming up soon with Spring again!! Those ladies can keep my first born for a box of 'THE PRECIOUS!'

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by Salamander In reply to OOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!

...We don't have that option here! Awwgh! Instead, we are forced to make do with the Thin Mints, sublime as they are when frozen.

Cookies came out two weeks ago. The Stairmaster will own my soul for the next two months!

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by FluxIt In reply to Obesity a killer?

that the Democraps are running around with the notion that we are running out of food. I heard a battlecry that Earthlings will be starving in the next 20 years. There will be no food. What are going to do?

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Sin tax!

by djent In reply to Obesity a killer?

Looks like a grand oppertunity for another "sin tax", just like tobacco and alcohol. How about an extra $2.50 for state and federal tax on a big mac and $.75 for fries. I think the brocolli and apple lobby would support that, we have set a precedent for this approach. All we need to do is tax all those evil doers into submission and compliance. And while we are at it the attorney general should start a class action suit against the purveyors of this poison, they knew it was harmful and denied it. It is the governments job to protect us from all manner of sin, debauchery and even gluttony. Only the US could underwrite unfettered access to assult rifles and regulate fat as a danger to society.

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