Obesity in America: Causes and Consequences


Since mid-seventies, the prevalence of obesity has been on the increase for both children and adults in America. The increasing rates are raising concerns due to their implications for the Americans’ health. Being obese or overweight increases the vulnerability to many diseases and health conditions. The American policy regarding national health and as an objective by the year 2010 is to cut down obesity prevalence among adults to 15 % (Healthy people). However, current data indicate that the situation is worsening rather than improving. According to a story posted on July 21st, 2005 in website and entitled economy of scale, the weight of the Americans is described one of America’s greatest weaknesses.

Main body

Obesity refers to having a body mass index of greater than 30.Body mass index is a measure of one’s weight relative to his/her height (emedicehealth). Adults with a body mass index of 25 to 29.9 are considered to be overweight (obesity).The well being of human beings is determined by the food eaten daily. However, if eaten so much, the extra food is converted into fats and stored.

The fat stored is what contributes to gained weight. Eventually if more and weight is gained, it leads to obesity. Obesity posses a great public health concern all over the world, a major reason for the concern being its contribution to various diseases and disorders. The United States is one of the world’s nations that are leading in obesity incidences. Causes of obesity include a number of factors: genes, emotions, environmental factors, sex/gender, age and pregnancy (Obesity).

Obesity tends to run down through a family tree and has strong genetic determinants (Hill, James O., & Trowbridge, Fredrick supplement 571).Parents pass down genes to their children. It is also greatly contributed by shared diet and lifestyle habits in families. However it is not certain that by having obese relatives, one will be automatically obese (obesity).

Some people tend to eat more due to emotions and not hunger or related causes. For example a person may over eat due to emotional feelings of anger, depression, boredom, hopelessness and many others that have nothing to do with hunger. That however does not imply that all obese people have emotional related problems. It means their feelings are influencing their eating habits and the likely causes of making them over eat (Obesity).

Environmental causes define lifestyle. People are likely to behave or make decisions based on their environment or communities in which they are brought up. For example, a person may choose to take a train to work because there are no sidewalks that facilitate walking along the road network. Communities, homes, and workplaces can also influence an individual’s health choices and decisions. Other people may want to eat as so and so does simply to achieve certain class status (Obesity).

Men averagely have many muscles than women. Muscles burn more calories than other body tissues. Men use more calories than women even when resting (Obesity). Therefore with equal amount of calories intake, women are likely to gain more weight than men do. That extra weight is as a result of unburned calories.

With age, people tend to lose muscles in favor of gaining fat. Their metabolism rate tends to slow down. As a result of slowed metabolism, there is storage of excess food. That storage is what contributes to additional weight (Obesity)

Research findings indicate that pregnant women gain on average 4-6 pounds more after pregnancy than they weighed before the pregnancy. That normally compounds with each pregnancy (Obesity). So the more children a woman bears; the more expected weight increase. That weight increase can greatly contribute to obesity.

In addition to over eating and inactivity, certain medical conditions cause or promote obesity. Examples include hypothyroidism: which is a condition in which the thyroid gland never produces enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone affects the metabolic processes of the body which also affect the amount of food utilized. What is not utilized is stored. Cushing syndrome is also a disorder caused by prolonged exposure of the body tissues to high levels of corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are steroid hormones produced by adrenal glands. They regulate metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. If not much is metabolized, excess is converted into fats and stored (obesity).

In the world today, a huge number of medical conditions or complications have been associated with obesity. The complications arise either from increased fat mass or an increased number of the fat cells. Health problems that result from increased fat mass include, social stigma, heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, colon cancer, depression, gout ,lung diseases, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis which is knee, hip and lower back pain (Obesity).

Individuals who have obesity are usually at a high risk of developing such complications and may even lose their lives. Individuals who have a Body Mass Index of over 32 are at a double risk of death (Obesity: www.emedicehealth.com). There is a rapid increase in obesity cases in the Western society as a result of excessive amounts of nutrient intake and peoples’ sedentary lifestyle. Overeating has remained a problem in the developed countries even after widespread availability of the nutritional information on the internet, medical institutions and product packaging (Economic consequences).

Reports from surveys conducted indicate that more than half Americans are overweight. At least one out of five American children is also overweight. For example, results from the 2003 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicate an estimated 66% of United States adults are either overweight or obese. The same report indicates 17% children aged two to nineteen are overweight. The major contributing factors are said to be abundant food and lack of enthusiasm for physical activity (Obesity trends).

Obesity cases are on the increase in the entire United States however it is more dramatic in specific areas and states. In 2006, there were only four states with obesity prevalence rates of less than 20%. Twenty two states had a prevalence of equal or greater than 25%. Two States (Mississippi and West Virginia) had a prevalence of equal or greater than 30% (Obesity trends).

For children and adolescents, overweight poses a serious health concern. Surveys conducted by centre for disease control show that their obesity prevalence rates are on the rise. For children aged two to five years, prevalence increased from 5% to 13.9%.for those aged six to eleven years, prevalence increased from6.5% to 18.8%.For those aged twelve to nineteen years, their prevalence increased from 5% to 17.4% (U.S. obesity trends1985-2006)

The obesity epidemic has kept on spreading even as the United States government continues to develop measures of fighting the epidemic. Each state in the America has one third of the children overweight or at a risk of being obese. For the last 20 years, the United States has experienced a double rate of obesity in children, while the rate has tripled in adolescents. The hospital costs that take care of obesity cases have continued to rise with costs tripling in the past 20 years. Consequently, medical conditions as a result of obesity keep increasing. For instance, children under 18 years are estimated to be at a risk for diabetes, while a half of new diagnosis of diabetes due to overweight is in adolescents.

Overweight and obesity plus their associated health problems have substantial economic consequences for the United States health care systems. The increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity is tied with cost consequences of both direct and indirect nature. Direct costs are incurred when seeking preventive, diagnostic and treatment services while indirect costs refer to the value of wages lost by employees or people unable to work or attend to their businesses due to illness or disability. Indirect costs also refer to the value of future earnings lost by premature deaths. A study recently published in a Journal of the American Medical Association projected that obesity causes about 112,000 premature deaths in America yearly (Economy of Scale).

Yearly Americans spend billions of in addressing in the struggle to settle problems related to overweight and obesity. Approximately, United States spends 45 billion dollars on treating illnesses associated with obesity. Businesses suffer loses to the tune of 20 billion in productivity each year from absenteeism as a result of diseases caused by obesity.

In 1995, the total (both direct and indirect) costs attributable to obesity amounted to an estimated 99 billion dollars. In the year 2000 estimated 117 billion dollars were used. Most of the costs associated with obesity originate from problems of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart diseases, and stroke (Obesity).

The United States government has made efforts to develop and implement measures that have been aimed at fighting the obesity epidemic. However, the government has been criticized as failing to have aggressive, well coordinated, national and state strategies that address the obesity crisis. If not well addressed, the obesity epidemic is only bound to make the current situation worse (America’s Eating Habits: Changes and Consequences. Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 750).

The obesity epidemic is a great threat to the American peoples’ health and its economy which makes it impossible to ignore the complications that arise from excess weight. It is a great concern that the mortality rate from the health complications keep on increasing. The nation is spending over $117 billion per year to address both the direct and indirect costs of obesity (Economy of scale).

The effects of obesity, demands immediate action to curb spread. The current measures seem not to be addressing the obesity epidemic as a matter of urgency. The most important thing right now would be to work with the public who are directly concerned with the root cause. For instance, parents/guardians are responsible for their children’s eating habits. Because addressing the medical costs of obesity through policies will not solve diet-related obesity, creating awareness about healthy eating habits will effectively address obesity incidences arising from unhealthy eating habits.

There is need to develop measures and programs that should ensure collaboration between the government and the public. In the past, government programs have not been able to integrate the public to fully participate in solving the crisis. For instance, the public does not participate in giving their views and suggestions on the way forward as well as to participate in the implementation process. Public participation in government and state driven programs needs to be maximized. The programs also need to be made aggressive, well coordinated and immediate.

As an opinion, the solution that will fully integrate the public in government and state programs is the most cost effective because the voluntary participation by the public will minimize the costs incurred in advertising and public campaigns. The failure of public participation has made switching to other methods of creating awareness necessary, which have not been very effective in changing the public’s opinion. Medical costs incurred to treat obesity related complications can be reduced through better programs since the root cause of the problem will be addressed by public participation rather that addressing the symptoms. The government shall also greatly cut on costs


The government aside, obesity should be a concern of every American. Americans should try and avoid sedentary lives as much as possible. Children, the youth and the old should all activate their lives.that can be done through walking practices at least three a week to break the monotony of using cars. Doing manual work like attending to gardens and even mowing turf and so forth can also be a good way to activate. The Americans should balance food intake and activity. The ideal way is to balance intake calories from foods and the output calories used during physical activity. In so doing, the body shall not have anything to store that contributes to obesity.

Works Cited

America’s Eating Habits: Changes and Consequences. Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 750, US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, DC, pp. 213– 239.

Economic consequences. Web.

Economy of scale. Web.

Healthy people. 2008. Web.

Hill, James O. &Trowbridge, Fredrick. Childhood obesity: future directions and research priorities. Pediatrics 1998 supplement 571.

Obesity. Web.

Oklahoma Obesity Programs. 2008. Web.

U.S.Obesity trends. Web.

Find out your order's cost