Edging Smoking as No. 1 Preventable Killer of Americans||
Just as McDonald's announced it was phasing out its super-sized menu, a new
study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says
obesity may replace smoking as the number one cause of preventable death in the
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According to the study, bad eating habits and lack of exercise caused 17 percent
of the deaths in the United States in 2000 -- about 400,000 people. Tobacco use,
currently the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., killed 435,000 people.
"Americans need to understand that overweight and obesity are literally
killing us," said Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
show that about 15 percent of Americans under the age of 18 are overweight. In
addition to lack of exercise and overeating, some health advocates blame fast-food
television food ads and fewer gym classes in schools.
In adults the numbers
for obesity are higher. According to the Health and Human Services Department,
about 64 percent of Americans -- an estimated 129.6 million people -- are overweight
is obesity and how does it harm our bodies?|
Obesity is an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue -- tissue
that contains fat cells -- in relation to lean body mass, or muscles. Doctors
measure obesity using Body Mass Index, a mathematical formula in which an individual's
body weight is divided by the square of his or her height.
People with a BMI of
25 percent to 29.9 percent are overweight, according to the CDC. Those with a
BMI of 30 percent or more are obese.
A high BMI stresses the body's heart,
bones and lungs and increases the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart
disease and even some forms of cancer.
"It's not going to be people
having heart attacks and strokes in their 70s and 80s; we're going to bring that
down in the obese population to maybe the 50s and the 60s, or even maybe the 40s,"
said Dr. Francine Kaufman, a pediatric endocrinologist at Children's Hospital
in Los Angeles.
African American and Hispanic children have a higher
chance of being obese than other groups because of genetic and lifestyle factors,
Doctors also worry that obese children and teens face discrimination
from their peers.
"They also have low self-esteem," said pediatrician,
Dr. Wendy Slusser. "And then of course, an obese child has a much higher
risk for being an obese adult, and obese adults have been found to be discriminated
in the job market and also in the college admission process."
efforts to combat obesity|
In response to the CDC's report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said
it would ask food manufacturers and some restaurants to label food more clearly
so that customers know how many calories are in a serving.
would restaurants have to clearly state the number of calories and amount of fat
in each dish, but food packages would have to be easier to read and understand.
Currently, a soda label might say that it contains 90 calories per serving, but
there are 2.5 servings in the bottle. The new rules would eliminate the math need
to figure out that the soda actually has 225 calories.
addition, the government, along with the Ad Council, a non-profit organization
that develops public service campaigns for government agencies, launched an advertising
campaign aimed at encouraging Americans to eat less and exercise more.
In one ad, two boys are playing on a beach. When one boy finds a belly in the
sand, his friend asks, "What is that?" He replies, "Looks like
someone's belly, he, probably lost it walking on the beach."
everyone is happy about the ads. Critics say the images could offend overweight
"The message to eat healthier and be more active is good,
but to set it up in a way that makes overweight people look disgusting is highly
insensitive, stigmatizing and not necessary," Kelly Brownell, director of
the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders told USA Today.
are combined with a Web site, smallsteps.gov, created by the Health Department
to encourage healthy lifestyles.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives decided March 10 that the fast-food
industry should not take the blame for America's expanding waistline.
a 276-139 vote, House lawmakers passed a so-called "cheeseburger bill"
to protect restaurants from lawsuits by consumers who claim fast-food made them
fat. One such case was brought unsuccessfully last year by a group of New York
teen-agers who blamed McDonald's for their obesity.
Such suits, said
Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, are "not about health, but about money"
for lawyers. The bill prohibits many obesity or weight-related claims against
the food industry, but allows claims to go forward if state or federal laws have
been broken and, as a result, a person gained weight.
For the bill to
become law, it must pass the Senate and be signed by President Bush.
Kristina Nwazota, Online NewsHour