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Obesity in America

Generally, a healthy weight versus overweight status are determined by calculating a person’s body mass index, or BMI. According to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women.” A BMI of less than 18.5 is underweight, between 18.5 and 29 is normal weight, and between 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI above 30 is considered obese. Obesity is often linked to high calorie diets and low levels of physical activity, a lifestyle likely enforced through industrial development. As our quality of life increases, our surrounding environment makes it easier to access calorie dense foods in large portion sizes for a low price with little work of the consumer. Additionally, the use of cars and a sedentary lifestyle has reduced our energy expenditure as exercise less and use less physical energy to maintain our livelihoods. This all adds up to an increase in energy and a decrease in energy output. The left over energy from this unbalanced system is stored as fat in our bodies.

In America, obesity has become an epidemic as more and more members of our population are above a healthy body weight. According to the CDC, “More than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have obesity.” The prevalence of obesity in our population continues to increase every year, and it affects all ethnic groups, ages, and educational and socioeconomic levels. Despite disparities in the prevalence of the condition among race and socioeconomic status, there is not a single category of people unaffected by our collective weight gaining problem. While carrying extra weight may sound like it is just a matter affecting body image, it is much more than that. Extra body fat is implicated as a contributing factor in a number of different health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and even cancer. This is a noteworthy connection because heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Recent studies have been focusing on the composition of a person’s weight by focusing on the volume of body fat a person has, and have noted that even individuals with a healthy BMI can have health risks due to a term called “overfat.” Over fat is used to describe individuals with body fat levels significant enough to pose a health risk. The fat to blame is largely categorized as abdominal fat or belly fat. It is proposed that approximately 76% of the entire world is over fat. This adds another dimension to the already complex area of study that is constantly changing as we learn new things.

A recent study, as detailed by CNN, illustrates the complexity of weight. It revealed that even overweight or obese individuals with normal labs for things like cholesterol, blood pressure, or other metabolic markers are still at a significant risk for developing heart disease. This is an important finding given the increasing trend of “fat but fit” in which individuals who are overweight but still fit in the medically healthy category. It is important to be aware that while they are not at the same risk for heart disease, their risk is still elevated when compared to their normal-weight counterparts, despite their lab work appearing normal, creating a false sense of security. This study highlights the deficiencies of the current measures of health and obesity used in the medical field.

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