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The study shows Americans live in an "environment in which it's hard not to become overweight or obese. Unless people actively work against that, that's what's most likely to happen," Susan Bartlett, assistant professor of medicine and obesity researcher, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (AP)
Creeping Obesity Gains Momentum
wrote that the average person in this country gains approximately
one pound each year after age 25, or a total of 30 pounds of excess weight by
age 55. (Fat Loss Mother
Nature’s Way, article 13, Fat Loss & Weight Control category) That may actually be conservative. A new study found that nine out of 10
young to middle-aged adults were or became overweight or obese over a 30-year
A study reported in the
October 4, 2005 Annals of Internal Medicine analyzed
height and weight records collected every four years on 4117 white men and women
age 30 to 59 in the famous Framingham Heart study from 1971 to 2001. The
participants were the offspring of the original subjects in the long-running
study. The purpose of the new study was to learn the short- and long-term risk
of becoming overweight or obese.
Body mass index (BMI)
was used to determine whether the subjects were normal, overweight or obese. To
calculate each person’s BMI his or her weight in kilograms was divided by the
square of their height in meters. Normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9; overweight is 25
to 29.9; and obese is 30 or more. Periodic BMI classification was then used to determine
how often subjects with normal bodyweight became overweight or obese within
short (4 years) and long (10 to 30 years) time periods.
This sounds simple
as the researchers went to great pains to explain, it’s more complicated than
one might think. For example, subjects who were already overweight or obese at the
start of the study (or other observation periods) had to be excluded from the
rate of change calculations. Weight cycling had to be taken into account,
because subjects who repeatedly gained or lost 10 pounds had the potential to
skew the calculations. As always, smoking status and smoking cessation had to be
considered. What’s more, BMI does not always reflect changes in body fat.
For instance, people who lose muscle and gain fat may not show a change in BMI;
it’s also possible to lose fat and gain muscle without changing BMI. There’s
more, but you get the idea. The statistical calculations were not easy.
seems clear that the researchers tried their best to be as accurate as possible.
The press coverage (and
there was plenty) almost always trumpeted, in the headline or lead paragraph,
that 9 of 10 men and 7 of 10 women will become fat. The pieces
don’t spell out the basis for those figures, however. I’ll tell you what
those numbers include in a moment. Before we do that, let’s look at the short-
and long-term findings.
First, we're gaining weight
fast. Making it to middle age without getting fat is no guarantee you’ll stay
at a healthy weight. Within 4 years (all 4-year periods for which figures were
available), 14% to 19% of the women and 26% to 30% of men became overweight,
while 5% to 7% of women and 7% to 9% of the men became obese.
percentages are higher, of course. Within 30 years, more than half of the men and women
became overweight, and about one third of the women and one quarter of the men
became obese. Interestingly, older participants (over 50) became overweight or
obese less often than the younger people. In other words, we are getting
fat sooner than past generations.
Those are the bottom
line findings. So where do the headline numbers come from?
The numbers highlighted
in the media accounts are the long-term risk of ever being overweight--including
participants who were already overweight. “Over a follow-up period of 30
years,” the researchers wrote, “more than three quarters of women and 90% of
men were overweight or became overweight or more.” The obesity rate was
40 to 50 percent, including participants who were already obese.
What’s the take home
message? First, excess weight is a big problem and getting worse. The patient
summary provided in Annals says, “Overweight and obese people
are more likely than normal-weight people to have health problems, such as some
forms of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and knee arthritis. They also
die at a younger age.”
director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a sponsor of the
Framingham Heart study, told Scripps Howard News Service:
“National surveys and other studies have told us that the United States has a
major weight problem, but this study suggests that we could have an even more
serious degree of overweight and obesity over the next few decades.”
“You cannot become
complacent,” Ramachandran S. Vasan, MD, an associate professor of medicine at
Boston University and the lead researcher in the new study, told the AP,
“because you are at risk of becoming overweight.”
Susan Bartlett, an
assistant professor and obesity researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of
Medicine, added that the study shows that Americans live in an “environment in
which it’s hard not to become overweight or obese. Unless people actively work
against that, that’s what’s most likely to happen to them.”
So, what can we do?
The government and
researchers can help make us aware of the overweight problem, but they can’t
solve it for us. We must do that ourselves. The solution rests with us. Moreover,
it’s not as difficult as some would have us believe. In fact, it’s pretty
simple if we understand and follow a few basic principles.
First, eat mostly whole
foods that fill you up without giving you too many calories. Eat plenty of bulky
and filling - but low calorie - whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Don’t cut
back too much and make yourself miserable. If you’re feeling hungry and
dissatisfied, you’re not eating enough. Take your time. Be patient. Don’t
rush the fat loss/control process.
Second, exercise. A
sedentary lifestyle throws the body's appetite control mechanism off, causing us
to eat more calories than we expend. A combination of strength training and
aerobic exercise works best. Again, the key is to avoid biting off more than you
can chew. The best exercise program is one you’re willing to follow. If you
can’t see yourself sticking to the plan, go back to the drawing board. Regular
exercise makes your body work better and helps keep you lean.
a diet and exercise regimen you enjoy and you’re on your way to a lean and fit
body. You’ll never be one of the overweight statistics described in the new
know, it sounds too simple. But it’s true. There are more details, of course,
but that’s basically it.
start filling in the blanks read “Diet and training philosophy, in brief” on
this site and Fat
Loss Mother Nature’s Way,
the article mentioned earlier. Do it
now. GO Philosophy! GO Mother Nature!
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