Obesity epidemic: the culprits

Written by Elise Matthews

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that more than 2 billion adults and children worldwide are overweight or obese.  The prevalence of obesity has continued to increase over a three-decade span though trends and magnitude vary widely from country to country.  Here in the United States, we should hardly be surprised that we fall into the rank of number 3 on the obesity scale.  Another thing that shouldn’t surprised us as we complain about the rising cost of health care is that obesity presents an enormous burden on our health care system with the associated increased risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, inflammation, and as a result cardiovascular disease.    And what seems to be the cause of this continued increase?


Obesity is a societal issue, and until we as a society tip the scales in our demands for options that lead us towards health instead of away from it, we will continue down this slippery slope.


The prevailing mantra still stands:  Poor diet and lack exercise, but let’s get more specific.

According to recent studies, the major culprits for today’s obesity epidemic seem to be the following:

  1. Increased availability, accessibility, and affordability of energy-dense foods (but not necessarily nutrient dense)
  2. Intense marketing of such foods
  3. Reduced opportunities for physical activity
  4. Innovations which continue to reduce the need for daily movement


Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at these culprits in more detail


Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 YearsThe GBD 2015 Obesity Collaborators  N Engl J Med 2017; 377:13-27July 6, 2017DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1614362


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