Rising obesity rate triggers UN discussion

Rachel Thompson

The Lancet, a British medical journal, released a report last week describing the epidemic of rising rates of obesity in America and across the world.

According to the study, 50 percent of American adults will be considered obese by the year 2030 if the government does not make this issue a priority.

The report partially accredits individual lifestyle choices, such as diets that are high in fats, sodium and sugars, as well as lack of daily exercise to factors leading to obesity.

However, many researchers involved in the Lancet report argued the problem goes beyond individual responsibility and must be assisted by the government in order to reverse the epidemic. They believe this is particularly important in preventing obesity in young children.

“I think we can limit the outdoor advertising close to schools where kids tend to congregate and lower the exposure of the ads on television that target kids,” said Keryn Pasch, an assistant professor of Kinesiology and Health Education at UT.

According to the report, children are highly susceptible to obesity due to increased marketing of fast food because advertisements lack suitable information on the realistic consequences of what they are eating.

“Adults are setting bad models for children because we’re moving our bodies less, so the children are doing the same thing,” said Huiping Zhu, a research assistant professor in the department of Nutritional Sciences. “That just imposes the whole society with more health problems. We’ll be living less optimal lives.”

Zhu said taking personal responsibility to regulate one’s life choices is a step towards reducing the chance of becoming obese.

The report also called attention to the American food industry and how its structure and pricing has contributed to the increase of obesity. Foods higher in fat and calories are often more easily accessible, cheaper and better advertised than more expensive foods with higher nutritional qualities.

“Obviously, we have a lot more fast food options than healthy options,” said radio-television-film freshman Brooke Brown. “It’s convenient and cheaper to eat those things than the healthy options. I’d rather spend $3 on a burger at Wendy’s than $5 on a salad and be hungry later. It’s all about convenience and pricing for students.”

According to the report, obesity is linked to cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer. In addition, it reports that 2 to 6 percent of world health care costs are obesity-related. In an upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting on noncommunicable diseases the rising rates of obesity are set to be addressed. The meeting will take place in September 2011 and is the first high-level meeting of its kind.