Cynthia's Interests

The world as it unfolds - told from an African American woman's perspective...

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Overweight and Obesity is an epidemic in the US

The single most important health issue facing the African American community is obesity. I think the rise in obesity in the African American community makes HIV/AIDS look like child's play. I bet if you compared actual numbers of deaths from HIV/AIDS with obesity related deaths, you will find that not only are there more obesity related deaths than HIV/AIDS related deaths, but that obesity is the leading cause in the African American community. If anyone wanted to see the epidemic in the African American community they should observe any African American they come in contact with, particularly women and you will start to notice an alarming trend; and that trend is this - many African American women are not only overweight, but they are severely overweight.

My own personal opinion is this; people are too FAT not only because they eat too much, but because of the way the food is processed in the US. For instance, many people are consuming genetically modified (GM) food products that have been approved by the FDA for consumption in the US and banned in other industrialized countries because these products are known to cause diseases. The next few posts - I will try and construct my argument in a way to illustrate that the increase in obesity is a direct result of the merging of big conglomerates and the government. These two entities are one and the same and herein lies the problem.

Before I continue, below are a few alarming statistics on obesity in America and what others have to say.

According to CDC, During the past 20 years, obesity among adults has risen significantly in the United States. The latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that 30 percent of U.S. adults 20 years of age and older - over 60 million people - are obese. This increase is not limited to adults. The percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980. Among children and teens aged 6-19 years, 16 percent (over 9 million young people) are considered overweight.

African-American, American Indian and Hispanic-American women have the highest risk of becoming overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Only one minority group, Asian Americans, has a lower rate of obesity than the general population.

The results of a national study released in 1996 show that more than half of all African-American and Hispanic women in the United States are already above what is considered a healthy body weight.

Because overweight and physical inactivity now account for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year, according to Jeffrey P. Koplan, director of the CDC. "Obesity is an epidemic and it should be taken as seriously as any infectious disease epidemic," he said in a recent press release.

The statistics are startling. Sixty-six percent of African-American women are overweight and 37 percent are technically obese, meaning that they are 30 percent above ideal body weight. The figures for Mexican-American women are similar: 66 percent overweight and 33 percent obese. For Caucasian women, the figures are slightly lower with 49 percent considered overweight and 24 percent, obese.

Why the prevalence of obesity among minority women? In the past, researchers have focused on health differences between African Americans and Caucasians using race as the major determinant. But as the rate of obesity has skyrocketed in women of all races, scientists began to realize that they had to look at other factors, such as education and socioeconomic level, to determine the cause and develop intervention plans.

"People don't like to think about the idea that one is identified by social class or social stratification," Dr. Nancy Adler explained. Adler is the director of the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health, which was formed in 1997 to study the connection between health and socioeconomic status.
Recent research shows that social class measured by income and education can be more powerful than genetics in predicting future health problems, including obesity.

"It's tied more to general economic disparities," Dr. James Hill said when asked about the differences in overweight between African-American and Caucasian women. Hill, one of the country's leading authorities on obesity, pointed to the similarity in the obesity rate of African-American and Caucasian men.

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