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U.S. Obesity Rates Are Alarmingly High

May 27, 2008 | 33,547 views

overweight teenagerNew research shows "alarming levels" of obesity in most ethnic groups in the United States. The study also confirms the deadly toll obesity exacts on the heart and blood vessels.

Among almost 7,000 middle-age or older adults participating in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, or "MESA" study, researchers found that more than two-thirds of white, African American and Hispanic participants were overweight, and one-third to one-half were obese.

Obesity rates were lower in Chinese Americans, with 33 percent overweight and just 5 percent obese.

The investigators also found that obese adults had higher rates of high blood pressure, abnormal lipids, and diabetes, despite a "huge number" being on costly medications to treat those very problems.

Even after adjusting for "traditional" risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, obese adults also faced increased risks of:
  • Silent vascular disease (blood vessel disease that causes no symptoms)
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Thicker heart walls

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

That obesity is a growing problem in the United States (pun intended) is certainly not news. Still, the entire issue of weight, and how to lose it, is an ongoing debate that strikes a nerve with many people. Just take a look through the Community Comments below and you get a feel for the strong opinions that arise when people talk about weight.

I think it’s safe to say that most of you would not choose to be overweight. Yet, more than two-thirds of Americans are. Something is going on here, and for the sake of your health -- and the health of future generations -- it needs to be addressed.

So let’s take a look at some of the issues, and try to get to the bottom of how to REALLY help you reach a healthy weight. 

Is Obesity in Your Genes?

Children born to overweight mothers are more likely to be obese -- 15 times as likely -- than children born to lean mothers -- and all by the age of 6.

Meanwhile, it’s even been said that people with certain variants of the "fat mass and obesity associated" gene, or FTO gene, are more likely to become overweight.

So when I’m asked whether genes contribute to obesity, I don’t rule it out completely. They may play a role. A small one. But I also add, adamantly, that there is no way  “bad genes”  are for the reason you are unable to lose weight,

Your genes are merely dumb storage facilities that do very little to influence your health. This is GREAT news as otherwise you'd be helpless to do anything about your health, which, of course, isn't true at all.

What is much more important than the information your genes hold is the expression of those genes. Let’s say you do have the FTO gene. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be fat. Something either sets this gene off or keeps it dormant.

But what?

Through the new biology of epigenetics, we get the answer to that question, and it may be shocking to some of you. It is your Mind that sets it off. Your mind controls your genetic expression.

Is Your Mind Making You Fat?

Quite possibly, yes. On a biochemical level as the field of epigenetics suggests, and also on a more obvious one. I doubt anyone will debate the emotional connection many of us have with food. Often this starts in childhood with your parents giving you sweets as a reward. This then translates into adulthood where we “treat” ourselves by indulging in “comforting” junk foods.

What makes a bowl of ice cream or a piece of pizza so comforting, anyway? Nothing, other than the fact that your mind believes it to be so.

So it is very easy to get caught up in using food as a security blanket, a distraction from boredom, a way to cope with stress; it can do just about anything that you want it to.

Of course, so can other, healthier outlets like exercising or journaling. It just takes a shift in your thinking process to get to that point, yet this shift is often not realized because the emotional component to weight loss is so often overlooked.

Is the Food System Making You Fat?

Emotions are important, but even they do not make up the whole picture when it comes to obesity. Enter the modern-day food system, complete with its reliance on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), refined grains, processed foods and artificial sweeteners, and you have a recipe for big-time weight gain.

Michael Pollan wrote a book, Omnivore’s Dilemma, about why HFCS is detrimental to your waistline, but let’s just sum it up by saying that fructose converts to fat more than any other sugar. And the fact that most fructose is consumed in a liquid form -- the soda that makes up the number-one source of calories in the U.S. diet -- significantly magnifies its negative metabolic effects.

Then you have processed foods; upon which most Americans spend 90 percent of their food money. Processed foods are a great source of HFCS, along with very few nutrients. Eating a diet based on processed foods is a well-known way to do two things that are nearly guaranteed to make you pack on the pounds:

1. Interfere with your body’s ability to regulate insulin
2. Interfere with your body’s ability to regulate leptin 

On top of this, many of you have been deceived into thinking that all fat is a bad thing in your diet but, contrary to making you thin, low-fat diets actually cause weight gain in the majority of people.

What Else Could be Adding Inches to Your Waistline?

There are numerous other theories out there, some of which are very plausible. A common virus, the human adenovirus-36 (Ad-36) -- a cause of respiratory infections and pinkeye -- may be a contributing factor to obesity, as may the makeup of good and bad bacteria in your gut.

Even microwaves have been implicated.

Some people feel that income also plays a role, and that only the rich can afford the healthy foods and leisure time to exercise that it takes to be thin. Meanwhile, The International Journal of Obesity listed even more obesity triggers, such as:
  • Taking certain medications, including antipsychotics, high blood pressure drugs, protease inhibitors to treat HIV and diabetes medications, including insulin. Even over-the-counter antihistamines have been linked to weight gain.
  • Exposure to environmental pollutants from pesticides, dyes, flavorings, perfumes, plastics, resins, and solvents. Exposure to even low levels may make you put on weight.
Now that’s a mouthful.

Let’s Not Overlook the Basics

Weight gain is obviously influenced by many factors, but the two that everyone keeps coming back to -- diet and exercise -- are still the biggies in my mind. Combine a healthy diet with exercise -- and be sure you are addressing the emotional component of food, eating and weight gain -- and most people WILL lose weight.

But it’s not always as simple as just eating a salad and going out for a walk. Here are the three tips that everyone who is trying to lose weight should focus on.

1. Your diet should be tailored to your nutritional type. These are the foods that are right for your biochemistry, and these are the foods that will push your body toward its ideal weight. (By the way, these foods may be high in fat, high in carbs, heavy on protein or heavy on veggies, it all depends on YOU).

2. You need to view exercise as a drug. When you’re trying to lose weight, a casual walk here and there is not going to cut it. There are a number of routes you can go here. 30-60 minutes, and sometimes even 90 minutes, of aerobic exercise each and every day, and I’ve gone into the details of how to use exercise for weight loss in this past article. However, there is also strong compelling evidence that strength training and high-intensity anaerobic interval training may be more effective and appropriate for many.

3. You need to let go of your emotional blocks. Tools like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) are your friend and ally when it comes to losing weight. For some, emotional eating is more complex, and an experienced EFT practitioner may be able to help unravel some of your deeper emotional issues.

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