Thoughts of Thanksgiving feasts, holiday treats and Christmas goodies come more frequently to mind this time of year. Yet, holidays aside, people have to eat everyday. But what people choose to eat is contributing to steadily increasing obesity in the U.S.
In 2011, the National Library of Medicine reported that estimates were that approximately 34% of adults and 15-20% of children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese. Those statistics had risen substantially in less than a decade.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the percentage of adults aged 20 and over who are obese was 41.9% in 2020, and the percentage of Americans in the same age bracket who were overweight, including obesity, was 73.6%, nearly three-quarters of the population. The percentage of children aged 6-11 years, was reported at 20.7% while 12.7% of children aged 2-5 were overweight or obese in 2020.
A recent report published on on November 13 by WalletHub says recent findings by the Physical Activity Council showed that 68.6 million Americans aged 6 and older were completely inactive in 2022.
To determine where overweight and obesity populations most dangerously persist, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 31 key metrics.
“Our data set ranges from the share of obese and overweight population to sugary-beverage consumption among adolescents to obesity-related health care costs,” the report states.
WalletHub’s comparisons found that Michigan received an overall ranking of 21 for obesity. West Virginia ranked No.1. Colorado ranks 50th and the District of Columbia ranks 51st.
WalletHub also listed the most popular comfort foods by state, which listed the pasty as Michigan’s favorite, averaging 768 calories per serving. West Virginia’s favorite, according to the list, is the Pepperoni Roll, with 250 calories per serving. In contrast, Michigan’s next door neighbor, Wisconsin, claims fried cheese curds as its most popular comfort food, at a whopping 1,190 calories per serving. Colorado claims Chile Verde, at 750 calories, with D.C.’s comfort food of choice being Chili Half-Smokes, with 512 calories.
The CDC reports that all states and territories had an obesity prevalence higher than 20% (more than 1 in 5 adults).
There are consequences, the CDC reports. While children with obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults, adults with obesity are at high risk for developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Obesity, states the CDC, costs the U.S. healthcare system nearly $173 billion annually.
Studies conducted by the CDC show that Americans do not eat healthy enough or get enough physical exercise.
The studies found that fewer than 1 in 10 children and adults eat the recommended daily amount vegetables; fewer than 1 in 4 youth get enough aerobic physical activity, and just 1 in 4 adults meet physical activity guidelines.
The CDC also looked at possible reasons for these shortfalls and found that more than half of Americans do not live within half a mile of a park, and that 40% of all U.S. households do not live within 1 mile of store offering healthier food choices.
While the mainstream points at organic foods being the optimum choice, organic foods tend to be too expensive for many Americans. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture promotes consumption of organic foods, many organizations point to the USDA as the principle cause of the high cost of such foods. For example, the GoodRx Health website states that food must meet strict requirements for the USDA to certify it as organic, which is why organic food is typically more expensive than conventional produce.
However, the same website does not give higher nutritional ranking to organic foods than non-organic foods.
“Although organic fruits and vegetables may be better for you by lowering your exposure to pesticide residues,” Goodrx.com says, “the nutritional benefits have not shown to be significant.”
The site issues the reminder that eating non-organic produce is better for people than not eating any fruits and vegetables. These are also a much healthier and less fattening food than the standard go-to, mac and cheese.
Comfort foods around the holidays are always welcome as they remind us of the connections we share with our loved ones, but remembering to keep healthy food options in reach throughout the year and maintaining regular exercise can ensure our presence at holiday gatherings for years to come.