# Americans Eating Selves To Death

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CHICAGO (AP) - Inactive Americans are eating themselves to death at an alarming rate, their unhealthy habits fast approaching tobacco as the top underlying preventable cause of death, a government study found.

In 2000, poor diet including obesity and physical inactivity caused 400,000 U.S. deaths - more than 16 percent of all deaths and the No. 2 killer. That compares with 435,000 for tobacco, or 18 percent, as the top underlying killer.

The gap between the two is substantially narrower than in 1990, when poor diet and inactivity caused 300,000 deaths, 14 percent, compared with 400,000 for tobacco, or 19 percent, says a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is tragic," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC's director and an author of the study. "Our worst fears were confirmed."

"It's going to overtake tobacco" if the trend continues, Gerberding said. "At CDC, we're going to do everything we can to prevent it," she said. "Obesity has got to be job No. 1 for us in terms of chronic diseases."

The researchers analyzed data from 2000 for the leading causes of death and for those preventable factors known to contribute to them. Like tobacco, obesity and inactivity increase the risks for the top three killers: heart disease, cancer and cerebrovascular ailments including strokes. Obesity and inactivity also strongly increase the risk of diabetes, the sixth leading cause of death.

The results appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials discussed the findings Tuesday at a Washington news briefing where they announced a public service ad campaign using humor to get Americans to pay attention to the dangers of inactivity and obesity.

"I am working very hard at CDC to walk the talk," Gerberding said in a telephone interview, noting efforts the agency has made at CDC offices to improve the health of its 9,000-plus employees.

They include putting music, lights and fresh paint jobs in stairwells to encourage employees to use the stairs for exercise. Also, besides the current indoor smoking ban, CDC will ban smoking from outside all of its buildings starting later this year.

In order, the leading causes of death in 2000 were: Heart disease, cancer, strokes and other cerebrovascular disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, unintentional injuries, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, Alzheimer's disease, kidney disease, and septicemia.

The underlying preventable causes of death were, in order: tobacco, poor diet and physical inactivity, alcohol, microbial agents, toxic agents, motor vehicles, firearms, sexual behavior and illegal drug use. Together, these accounted for about half of all 2.4 million U.S. deaths in 2000.

An editorial accompanying the study in JAMA says national leadership and policy changes are needed to help curb preventable causes of death.

"After all, wisdom is knowing what to do next. Virtue is doing it," said editorial authors Drs. J. Michael McGinnis and William Foege. McGinnis is with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Foege is with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

My questions:

2>If you supported a socialized medicine plan, do you support it after reading this?
3>If you still support the socialized medicine plan, what do you suspect should be done to bring accountability to the table?

Related General Discussion News on Phys.org
Zero
I don't understand what this has to do with a national health care program. I think the only place the government can really step in and do anything is by mandating better food choices and physical education in public schools. Maybe there could be some sort of tax break for fruit and vegetable growers?

member 5645
Originally posted by Zero
I don't understand what this has to do with a national health care program. I think the only place the government can really step in and do anything is by mandating better food choices and physical education in public schools. Maybe there could be some sort of tax break for fruit and vegetable growers?
Let me spell it out for you - fat people = diseases = higher cost for healthcare. With healthcare a major issue, and many thinking nationalizing healthcare to be a magic fix, it should be on everyone's mind that these prevenative problems are NOT going to be held accountable in such a system. I personally don't care too much if fat people want to fatten up and die. I do care when it starts costing the rest of us via healthcare costs, facilities being taken up by them, and a lower GDP through lazier unheatlhier workers. I guess Social security would benefit

I'd support tax breaks on fruit and vegetables, but not tax increases(as some have arbitrarily offered up) on fast food type places.

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Zero
Originally posted by phatmonky
Let me spell it out for you - fat people = diseases = higher cost for healthcare. With healthcare a major issue, and many thinking nationalizing healthcare to be a magic fix, it should be on everyone's mind that these prevenative problems are going to be held unaccountable in such a system. I personally don't care too much if fat people want to fatten up and die. I do care when it starts costing the rest of us via healthcare costs, facilities being taken up by them, and a lower GDP through lazier unheatlhier workers. I guess Social security would benefit

I'd support tax breaks on fruit and vegetables, but not tax increases(as some have arbitrarily offered up) on fast food type places.
Good, sounds liek a plan, where do we sign up for nationalized health care?!?

If we really want to look at the cause of obesity in this country, it's not the junk food intake (we actually consume less fat as a whole than other thinner countries) it is our inactivity.

The latter is due to the fact that we are a culture enslaved by the automobile. If there is to be a tax, it should be a higher tax on gas. Countries where gas is much higher, people aren't going to be driving three blocks to pick up a gallon of milk. They walk or bike or take the metro. Some European countries have a far richer diet yet they are overall much thinner than us.

A society less dependant on cars is a society that incorporates excercise into daily activities rather than forcing the issue of finding the time and discipline that alot of people don't have.

Americans are not "lazier" because we are the fattest industrialized nation but because we don't have a culture conducive to incoorporating excercise for our average citizen. Of course, to place higher taxes on gas would put hardship on everyone, and would involve changing the infrastructue (ie: more mass transit and decent bike lanes like in Amsterdam) so it might just be easier to tax junk food. However, if we tax junk food, we will probably hurt the providers of the raw materials, ie: farmers and I have less sympathy for the oil conglomerates.

It's interesting that Colorado has the most bike lanes and is one of the thinnest states in the US and Georgia and Mississippis have some of the worst bike access lanes (I believe Atlanta was second worst) and we are two of the fattest states in the US. Of course, I am prejudiced since I am a biker and bike commute unless I am on call at night.

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Evo
Mentor
Americans are not "lazier" because we are the fattest industrialized nation but because we don't have a culture conducive to incoorporating excercise for our average citizen.
This is very true. In America, a lot of people need to commute considerable distances to their jobs, where a bicycle would not be an option.

People tend to work long hours sitting at a desk and then sitting a couple of hours in their cars each day commuting, they get home and have to take care of the kids, make dinner, no time to "work out" because they're "worn out". It's no wonder that Americans are so out of shape.

Americans also tend to eat out a lot. My best friend from Sicily visited me recently and was horrified at the huge portions of food served at restaurants. He said he wasn't surprised that so many Americans were so fat. Many people will continue to eat whatever is in front of them, even if they are no longer even hungry.

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member 5645
Originally posted by Zero
Good, sounds liek a plan, where do we sign up for nationalized health care?!?
hahaha, damn my bad typing! these problems AREN'T going to be held accountable. Presently, obese people will pay for their lack of personal care via higher premiums and early death. In a socialized plan we all would pay more for them, to keep them alive longer. We need accountability for a socialized plan, and this article points out just one of the MAJOR health problems that such a system will put on all of us to burden.

member 5645
Originally posted by Evo

Americans also tend to eat out a lot. My best friend from Sicily visited me recently and was horrified at the huge portions of food served at restaurants. He said he wasn't surprised that so many Americans were so fat. Many people will continue to eat whatever is in front of them, even if they are no longer even hungry.
My friend from Sydney said that he could eat a day off of what I eat in two of my six meals
Luckily, I work out, so my meals are strategically planned for my lifestyle :)

Janitor
I grew up at a time when many children in India were going to bed hungry, and it was accordingly of the utmost importance that I finish eating everything on my plate. At least that's what my parents told me. It is a habit I carry with me to this day. My weight has crept up to 215 lb, and the days of being able to see the abdominal muscles on my belly are long gone, I am sorry to report.

Zero
Originally posted by phatmonky
hahaha, damn my bad typing! these problems AREN'T going to be held accountable. Presently, obese people will pay for their lack of personal care via higher premiums and early death. In a socialized plan we all would pay more for them, to keep them alive longer. We need accountability for a socialized plan, and this article points out just one of the MAJOR health problems that such a system will put on all of us to burden.
You ignore the reality of the situation...we ALREADY pay for them, and will under ANY system.

If we really want to look at the cause of obesity in this country, it's not the junk food intake (we actually consume less fat as a whole than other thinner countries) it is our inactivity.
The article did mention that slothness contributes to our poor health and obesity. However, to say that our diet is not nearly as important as activity level is to make a false claim.

I would like to know what source you relied on to claim that we consume less fat that thinner countries. I highly doubt it, especially if you're talking about more than one or two flukes.

The portions of food, as well as the calorie density, in this country are enormous. Just think about all the bread rolls and the huge plate of pasta that you get at an Italian restaurant in the USA.

This is merely one case, but since going to college, my activity level has decreased significantly, but I also stopped eating animal products. My weight has stayed the same.

As for an oil tax, that would seriously effect almost all areas of our economy, as transportation is vital to pretty much everything.
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I actually agree with phatmonky on something here. In medical care,especially socialized medical care, these preventable, continuing-lifestyle diseases (not the effects of one wrong decision, but continued poor decision-making) are a serious problem. We should not pay for people to be reckless and then hope for someone else to fix it.

Even without socialized medicine, the obesity epidemic clogs up the hospitals (pun not intended), and probably leads to some of the more risky operations (triple bypass) that causes these high-cost lawsuits and insurance for the doctors which leads to higher medical costs. There are probably other ways in which this increases medical costs, as well.

Being a vegetarian for the animals, this notion is especially strong in me because the same actions that are giving these people their health problems are contributing to incredible cruelty (in the case of animal products, which is where most of the unhealthy food comes from).

Finland, Scotland and few others I can't name off hand consume more saturated fat and have higher rates of coronary disease ( that's why alot of cholesterl drugs are tested in clinical trials ie: the famous West of Scotland study) but they are not as obese as we are. Granted, they are smaller countries and more homogeneous. I believe our fat intake over the last thirty years in this country has decreased but not our obesity because, as you stated, our portions are higher than most countries. http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/pdf/guidance_document_3_2003.pdf [Broken]

This link above after page 5 of 58 talks about how our dietary fat intake over the last 30 years has actually decreased. Not to say fat does not play a role in obesity, but in our country, our obesity epidemic cannot be explained in whole by this since the CDC and others say we have decreased our overall fat intake over the past many years.

http://www.unu.edu/unupress/food/V193e/ch07.htm This link looked at extremes of fat intake (low vs high) and put Belgium, Ireland etc. at the upper extreme of fat intake, not the US. There are other qualifying variables (what kind of fat intake, transfatty etc.) but overall, the US is still not the country with the highest overall fat intake (although we are up there).

http://www.healthyeatingclub.com/info/articles/foodcult/mediterr-asia.htm [Broken]

As for wether we have socialized medicine or not, we already are paying for the actions of smokers, obese patients etc. Two of my 21 employees have been in out of the hosptial for pulmonary, cardiac or joint problems related to their obesity or smoking. (They are the only two who are obese or smoke) My premiums that I must pay per employee went up $400.00 per person because of their increased medical usage over the last two years. (I am a small business owner so I don't get big discounts) I cannot fire good workers because they are overweight or smokers since that would be discrimination. Last edited by a moderator: Njorl Science Advisor Does anyone think the price of food contributes? I do. Food is just so incredibly cheap. Since I was a kid, the price of milk has not even doubled, the price of bread and fast food is about 4 times as much. Housing, cars, and fuel are about 6-10 times as much as they used to be. While most of what occupies a household budget has grown faster than wages, food costs have not. In restaurants, the price of the labor and infrastructure is much more than the price of the ingredients. Doubling a serving size might just cost 5% more - making a quart of moo goo gai pan is about as easy as making a pint. Interestingly, the other big ticket item that has not outpaced wages is electronics. They are cheap. TV's, computers, video games, stereos - all sloth-promoting items - have become much more affordable. Njorl kat Curious what area of the country you live in Njorl? Our milk is far more expensive then it was during my childhood (over$3 a gallon).

There's been some discussion about an increase in weight that can be attributed to so called low fat diet foods that are actually causing increased weight. Any ideas on that?
I think that Maine (my home state) is right up there on the obesity charts, I believe that it's not due to eating out (fast food) a lot as that seems to be more prevalent in other areas that I've lived in..but diet is based heavily on meat, potatoes, breads and lots of chips and soda. Light on veggies..and fruits. Fruits and veggies seem to be fairly expensive in this area...fish is also very expensive compared to red meat, potatoes etc.

Njorl
I pay about $2.10 a gallon here in Maryland. When I was a kid in the early 70's (in Philadelphia), I paid$1.28 a gallon. The price was artificially supported to a minimum of a penny an ounce then. Milk is one of the very few tangible products that is made here in the DC suburbs, maybe that contributes to its cheapness.

Njorl

Obviously, (saturated) fat isn't the only conributor to obesity and circulalatory and heart diseases, but it is rather well correlated. Total caloric intake is probably even more closely correlated.

Well, there are a few counrtries that aren't as obese as the USA in which people consume more fat than here (though which type?). Of course, as you stated, they have even higher rates of heart disease and blood cholesterol, which are more directly problems than obesity.

The link about our fat intake increasing was really large and it got corrupted when I downloaded it, and I didn't feel like trying again, but I'm willing to bet that it refers to percent of calories from fat decreasing, not total fat consumed decreasing. (Percentage can go down while amount can stay the same or go up if our total caloric intake increases.)

Food is much cheaper today than it used to be. I don't remember the numbers, but I remember reading rather shocking statistics about how much lower of a percentage of their income people in the USA spend today compared to in the 50s or 60s.

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Kat (sorry ), there is some self-contrast in yoru post, at first stating that low-fat diet foods may be contributing to our obesity and health problems, and then stating that fruits and veggies (low-fat diet foods) are more expensive than high-fat foods (meat, chips, etc.).

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kat
Originally posted by Dissident Dan
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Kerrie, there is some self-contrast in yoru post, at first stating that low-fat diet foods may be contributing to our obesity and health problems, and then stating that fruits and veggies (low-fat diet foods) are more expensive than high-fat foods (meat, chips, etc.).
I think you are referring to my post not Kerrie's so...I'll reply as though you are I meant packaged low fat diet foods and things like diet soda etc. Also, there's been some reference to studies that the fat in processed milk is handled differently by your body then that of processed...I'll look for more info later, I think it was suggested that processed milk contributes to higher heart disease. Can't really remember where or the particulars (we drink unprocessed farm milk from a local farm..delivered to our door ) but I'll see if I can find anything legitimate that discusses what I'm referring to. Personally, I would prefer to drink a larger amt of soy milk but I'm providing for 5 children atm so cost is an issue.

Originally posted by phatmonky
They include putting music, lights and fresh paint jobs in stairwells to encourage employees to use the stairs for exercise. Also, besides the current indoor smoking ban, CDC will ban smoking from outside all of its buildings starting later this year.
Lets go one step further... eliminate elevators and escalators. Destroy the horizontal escalators in airport terminals and stop that gyrostabilized two-wheel whatchamacallit from coming onto the market.
In schools, make students' scheduled classes as far away as possible and set the tardy limit to 2 minutes, forcing them to run.

It would not be a good idea for teleporation devices to be created in the near future, people will only get fatter.

Evo
Mentor
Originally posted by kat
There's been some discussion about an increase in weight that can be attributed to so called low fat diet foods that are actually causing increased weight. Any ideas on that?
People are confusing "low fat" with "low calorie". It seems a lot of people automatically assume that the low fat version of a food would be correspondingly low in calories. So they think a cookie that has 50% less fat will have 50% less calories, when in reality it may only have 10% less calories. They end up eating twice as many cookies and wonder why they're gaining weight.

Zero
Originally posted by Evo
People are confusing "low fat" with "low calorie". It seems a lot of people automatically assume that the low fat version of a food would be correspondingly low in calories. So they think a cookie that has 50% less fat will have 50% less calories, when in reality it may only have 10% less calories. They end up eating twice as many cookies and wonder why they're gaining weight.
Exactly...people will also see something advertised as being "no fat", and think it is ok, even though it is loaded with sugar...hell, Pepsi has no fat, it must be good for you, right?

ShawnD
Originally posted by Zero
Exactly...people will also see something advertised as being "no fat", and think it is ok, even though it is loaded with sugar...hell, Pepsi has no fat, it must be good for you, right?
It always cracks me up when I see a woman in a food court carrying a huge plate of food but drinking a diet pepsi .

I think it's safe to say that diet has no significance on whether you'll be fat or not, and that obesity is entirely based on activity.
My parents used to talk about how everything was cooked in lard when they were kids, and how pork was much more common than beef (because it's cheaper). Dispite that very high energy diet, obesity was very rare.

I personally put butter on everything. I have butter on my potatoes, my steak, my toast, my hotdog buns, my pasta, my rice. You know how the instructions on a box of KD say to use milk to turn the powdered cheese into a sauce? I don't use any milk, it's all butter.
Although I consume more food than most people, I'm not fat because of the things I do. To get to school, I have to take the bus. That means a whole lot of running for the bus and a lot of standing once I'm on the bus. When I get up from my computer chair, I don't slowly lean forward like an old geezer, I use my arms to lift myself up. Every 2 days, I exercise my legs until it feels like they're going to fall off. I actually use a SHOVEL to move snow, not a snowblower. I use the kind of lawnmower you have to push, not a riding mower.
It doesn't take a lot of effort to stay in shape.

kat
Well..a couple of thoughts

Shawn- Just an FYI..there are a lot of people who drink diet drinks because they cannot drink the sugar in other sodas. Sometimes it's due to diabetes but it may also be (as in my aunts case) that the sugar in other drinks bothers her teeth.

As for diet foods, what I actually wanted to get at..and excuse my lack of proper terminology..is that I believe that some of the additives are known to actually cause your body to store fat at a greater rate, or to slow down your ability to metabolize. Not sure exactly how it works but...that was my understanding. Also, in regards to diet drinks or other diet items with sugar substitutes, don't these cause the body to dehydrate? thereby making the body less efficient at flushing excess whatever from itself (lol, I need coffee..I know this sounds dumb!)

*edit- Shawn- another tidbit...my metabolism was incredible until my mid 30's, in fact I'm almost 5' 11' and after my third child, despite eating almost piggishly..I very quickly returned to just a bit more then I weighed before at 114lbs (very thin) now..I'm at a much healthier 136 and yet..I am just as active and eat pretty much whatever I want keeping in mind that I need to make sure of my calcium intake and so forth to retain bone density, I try to get a good intake of soy to prepare my self for that big life change..*note: it also seems to decrease PMS type moodiness as well

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Njorl
Beware of leaving your teens Shawn!

The majority of the calories most people burn are used in maintaining body temperature. Young people, particularly teens, are caloric furnaces. In high school I ate 7 large meals a day. I TRIED to gain weight but couldn't. I was 6'4" and only weighed 160 pounds. Then, in one year, I gained 70 pounds. It was nice that most of it was muscle, but a lot of it was fat.

Njorl

Zero
Actually, most of the food we eat is crap, and they cover that fact with sugar and salt. Have you ever looked at how much sugar is in EVERYTHING? Even whole wheat bread usually has a pile of brown sugar or molasses in it. Sugar intake causes an insulin dump into your system, and once you get on that cycle your metabolism is shot and you get fat. That's why diets like Atkins and South Beach let you eat tons of food, and you still lose weight, because you don't get that sugar rush/crash cycle screwing with you body. I tried Atkins once, to lose a quick 20 pounds before my brother's wedding. I lost the weight in about a month, eating 2-3 pounds of red meat a day.

Nereid
Staff Emeritus