Man Measuring His BellyThe obesity epidemic in the United States continues to be an issue and fighting it in the future is a focus of many. More people than ever are considered to be overweight or obese and children are joining the list much too quickly. Not only is obesity a factor health-wise, it is very costly. This problem will continue to get worse if more isn’t done to combat it.

Education is one way that organizations are getting the word out about obesity and what can be done to decrease it. Marketing is another. Although a lot is being done to fight the issue, it is still a growing problem that is difficult to both solve and fix.

Prevalence of the Obesity Epidemic

Although the fight against the obesity epidemic may seem like an uphill battle, it is one that needs to be fought. In the United States, one in six children is considered to be obese and one in three adults are.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes obesity as having too much body fat, while overweight means having too much body weight for a certain height. This extra weight can be from fat, water, bone, muscle, or a combination of two or more of these.

The fight needs to begin early, as more children and adolescents are obese than ever before. With obesity doubling in children and tripling in adolescents over the last 30 years, the future needs to focus on this age group as much, if not more, as older adults.

Causes of Obesity

Although weight gain is caused by an imbalance of calories in and out, that is a simplistic way of explaining obesity. It is important to keep track of the number of calories you ingest, including food and drink, and how many you burn from being active, digesting, and other body energies. In the general sense, the more calories you take in that aren’t getting burned off, the more weight you will gain. Over time, this leads to obesity if the balance doesn’t go the other way.

However, there are many other contributing factors to the obesity epidemic. Your familial genes can help determine how easy or difficult it will be for you to gain weight. If you come from a family that tends to struggle with weight, your chances of being obese will be greater.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, genetics can actually play a role in how much fat your body stores and where it is stored. However, following the habits of your mom and dad tends to play the biggest part in whether you gain weight or not. An individual who grows up in a household where physical activity and healthy foods are priorities will tend to have better weight control.

Health conditions can also contribute to obesity. Hormones tend to be a factor in weight gain. Some examples include Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Certain medications, such as seizure medicines, antidepressants, and corticosteroids can lead to weight gain because they cause extra water weight, increase your appetite, or lower your calorie-burning weight.

Even if you continue to stay active throughout your life, you may find it more difficult to keep the weight off as you get older. This is because you begin to lose muscle at a faster rate after a certain age which means that you won’t burn as many calories.

Many people don’t realize that sleep is a huge contributing factor to the obesity equation. Many are mistaken and think that too much sleep results in weight gain. The truth is that a lack of sleep will increase your obesity risk.

Sleep helps keep your hormones in balance, including ones that control your hunger level. It also affects how you react to insulin, which controls your blood sugar levels.

Solutions to the Obesity Epidemic

Because obesity is linked to so many medical conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and high blood pressure, something needs to be done to fight it. Ultimately, it comes down to the consumer and the choices that they make. However, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition believes that there needs to be collaboration among the food industry, academia, government, and healthcare providers as well.

Educating the public about good nutrition and making the right food choices is a good start. This can be done through media, in school, in the grocery store, and at the doctor’s office. Honest and clear nutritional information needs to be shown on grocery items and at restaurants so that consumers can make better choices.

A focus on physical activity needs to be a priority as well. Schools need to continue to have, or bring back, daily gym classes along with education about the importance of regular exercise. Parents need to have more of a role in their kids’ activities as far as computer time versus active time.

Instead of just giving out medications that match a patient’s symptoms, healthcare providers need to educate their patients and give them alternative therapies as well. There is a time and a place for medicine but it should be a temporary solution. Working at fixing the cause with nutrition and exercise plans needs to be at the forefront of patient care or else things will never change.

The obesity epidemic is a serious problem in the United States. It needs to be conquered from a variety of angles if there is to be a chance for a healthier outlook for generations to come.