"Obesity Problem": Results From a Casual Google Search Term

Physiological Impact of Obesity
Image from Drexel University College of Medicine
I couldn't open up a magazine, you couldn't read a newspaper, you couldn't turn on the TV without hearing about the obesity epidemic in America.
--Morgan Spurlock, Supersize Me

Pandemic or Nonsense?

Out of curiosity, I did a search on the term "Obesity Problem," just to see what is being said in the media and medical sites.

Here is what I discovered:
Obesity defined:
An obese person has accumulated so much body fat that it might have a negative effect on their health. If a person's body weight is at least 20% higher than it should be, he or she is considered obese. If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9 you are considered overweight. If your BMI is 30 or over you are considered obese.
--Medical News Today
Are YOU obese? Use this handy CDC widget to find out:
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) (2007-2008), approximately 68 percent of adults are overweight or obese, with 75 million adult Americans considered obese.
--U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
On stigmatization of obese women:
Why doesn't body size affect men's attainment as much as women's? One explanation is that overweight girls are more stigmatized and isolated in high school than are overweight boys. Other studies have shown that body size is one of the primary ways Americans judge female -- but not male -- attractiveness.
--Oregon Live
On physical activity:
In a new study conducted at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, scientists have found that the decrease in workplace physical activity over the past fifty years is a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic. The study suggests that changes in caloric intake cannot solely account for observed trends in weight gain increases for men and women in the United States.
--Pennington Biomedical Research Center
On female fertility:
Mother’s Obesity May Lead to Infertility in the Next Generation
--Headline/Title of Article on Obesity in America website
What is "morbid obesity"?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) consensus report [and reported on the Drexel University College of Medicine website], morbid obesity is a serious disease and must be treated as such. It is a chronic disease, meaning that its symptoms build slowly over an extended period of time. We talk about morbid obesity when your body mass Index (BMI) is 40 or higher. Sometimes this is defined as 100 pounds or more over your ideal body weight. The important thing to remember is that once you reach that point you will have an increased risk of having significant medical problems or serious diseases.

Causes of Obesity and Morbid Obesity

1. Heredity:

If others in your family are obese, then you have a higher risk for obesity. Genetic research does show that a number of processes don't work as well in obese people as they do in others. These include how fat is burned, metabolism and feelings of hunger and fullness.
2. Metabolic Disorders:
Metabolism refers to how your body gets energy from food. Lots of things affect metabolism. For instance, trouble with your thyroid gland can change your metabolism and lead to obesity or morbid obesity.
3. Energy Balance:
To work right, your body needs the energy that comes from food. When you eat the same amount of food your body needs, your weight stays the same. If you get more energy from food than you need, some is left over. Your body stores that extra energy as fatty tissue. If your body never uses the extra fat, you will gain weight. How much food you need depends on how fast your body uses energy. Some people with higher metabolism use energy faster than others. Some need more energy because they are more active.
4. Eating and Social Habits:
Your eating habits can affect your weight. Things like not eating a balanced diet or eating fast-food and fatty snacks between meals can all cause obesity. Another habit that can cause obesity is eating portions that are too large or too rich. Drinking too many high-calorie soft drinks can also cause it. Not getting enough exercise can make the effect of these habits worse.
5. Psychological Factors:
Most people's eating habits are affected by their surroundings. For some people, small colorful portions will cause them to eat more. Some people eat larger portions of rich foods when they are at social events. Some people eat for comfort. They may eat at times of grief or increased stress. The "blow-out" is a common response after a diet fails, causing the dieter to think "It never works." This way of thinking can lead to a vicious cycle of eating and dieting that will only make the person gain more weight.
--Drexel University College of Medicine
A not-so-surprising finding from Drexel University College of Medicine:

Heredity component. It is heartening to see that the medical field is beginning to recognize that, perhaps, our genes are at least partially responsible for obesity. Perhaps this knowledge will take away some of the social stigma of obesity and focus more on solutions and less on blame.

A surprising finding from Drexel University College of Medicine:
For some people, small colorful portions will cause them to eat more. Some people eat larger portions of rich foods when they are at social events.
The first part of this statement seems to go against conventional thinking regarding small portions, while the second part seems to confirm what everyone already seems to know: that too many buffet choices can cause us to underestimate how much we are eating.

I suspect that the first part of the statement is related to the small finger foods served at social gatherings/receptions.

(Side note: one successful strategy I have discovered: Fix a limited amount of food at meals and don't serve meals family style [bowl on table]. Make it more difficult to take seconds.)
My analysis of the "obesity problem" search stream was small and hardly conclusive, but this is clear: There is an obesity epidemic in the U.S., which raises another question:

Is obesity an infectious disease?

On Google, this question in quotes returns about 11,500 entries, most of the top results waffling on this question.

However, The Lancet Infectious Diseases website, a British medical journal, reports that
For around US $125, people will be able to find out if they've been infected with a virus that might make them fat. An obesity researcher has launched a new biotech company that plans to offer an antibody test for adenovirus −36 (Ad-36), the suspect pathogen.
Hmmm...I have my doubts here. I doubt very much is obesity is infectious via a biological virus (although future research may reveal otherwise, and I'm certainly open to such a possibility. Who wouldn't like to zap their fat with a shot or pill?).

However, obesity seems to be primarily a social virus, spread by Madison Avenue, our overall propensity for large food portions, societal attitudes toward eating as a focal point for social gatherings, and family customs.

Is the obesity problem a pandemic?

Perhaps, if one accepts that a "social virus" falls under the umbrella of "pandemic."

Definition of "pandemic":
...An epidemic of infectious disease that is spreading through human populations across a large region; for instance multiple continents, or even worldwide.
In this Wikipedia article, there is no mention of obesity as being a pandemic, so I would conclude that the term "pandemic" may be a bit too strong.

On the other hand, the obesity problem is definitely not nonsense, but a serious problem requiring serious solutions that need to begin early in life, starting with nutritional education for parents.


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