The Weight of the Nation
Confronting America's Obesity Epidemic
This four-part HBO Documentary Films series explores a situation that has now reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It seems like everywhere you turn some new weight-loss product is being advertised or some new fat-busting system is being promoted. But ironically, regardless of all the new advances, people are just getting heavier and heavier.
This obesity epidemic began sometime in the early 1980s. Today, more than 18% of children in the US are obese and two-thirds of the adult population is struggling with some kind of health issue that is directly related to weight. It has been estimated that one of three children born after the year 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in their lifetime.
Beverages and juices are the largest source of sugar in the diets of children and adolescents. Scientists have found that the consumption of these sugar-sweetened beverages is strongly associated with obesity. For a parent, it’s a battle to not succumb to the television’s suggestions about what meals should look like and what kids love to eat. So even though it’s quite obvious that foods that contain that much sugar and fat just can’t be good for health, parents obediently go with the flow.
In the 1833, a Belgian statistician called Adolphe Quetelet set out to define the average person’s body measurements. He established a formula for body mass index (BMI)
that is still being used today to determine the proportion of fat in a person’s body, based on their height and weight. According to his formula, a healthy weight for an adult would be a BMI of 18.5 and 24.9.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined recently that almost 70% of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese and that by 2030 up to 53% of adults will be obese. As a consequence there’s an increase in diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint pain, low energy, and more. Many people are able to accept the role their individual choices plays in their weight, but they seem unable to make the necessary changes.
The National Institutes of Health spend close to $800 million per year on research into the causes, consequences, treatment, and prevention of obesity. Until now it has become clear that lifestyle changes may reduce weight and improve health. That’s not surprising at all, since it’s clear that a healthy diet and more exercise is what’s needed in most cases. In 1969, over 40% of children walked or biked to school whereas today more than 80% are driven to school.
Many are calling out for the government to play a larger role in finding solutions to this problem that is destroying the health of the entire nation. However, is this really a political problem? Should the government really have to tell people to eat better and to exercise? Where does personal responsibility come in? Watch this series now.