There is a person in charge of comparing the obesity rates of Florida with Minnesota, and so on. It’s Captain Heidi Blanck, Ph.D., who works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — specifically, for the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity.
No reflection on the division’s chief, but its name tells the whole tale. Officially, obesity is associated with physical activity and nutrition, period. The governmental department is not titled, as it ought to be, the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, Obesity, and Freedom From Food Addiction. The official literature states:
Staff in the Obesity Unit focus on national, state and local surveillance, applied research, and guidelines development related to topics such as body mass index (BMI), nutrition standards, sugar drinks/drinking water, food marketing and screentime.
Nary a word about the purposeful engineering of food-like substances, designed to seduce kids whose psychological confusion and emotional problems predispose them to engage in aberrant eating behaviors and become hooked on pseudo-foods laced with strange chemicals, fillers, and way too much sweetening.
Be that as it may, the big picture according to the CDC is that despite an increase during the years 1983 to 2000, obesity rates have actually stabilized over the past decade. Dr. Blanck as been quoted as saying:
There has been no change in obesity prevalence in recent years.
Sounds like good news for the food industry, doesn’t it? At one point, Dr. Pretlow remarked about that:
Here’s another way to look at obesity prevalence. Although indirect, I think the earnings of junk food and fast food companies should be an indicator of obesity prevalence trend. For example, earnings of Coca Cola and Yum Brands (Pizza Hut, KFC) are up substantially. McDonald’s likewise has hit a new earnings high. If these companies are selling record amounts of their food, somebody is eating the food. These companies are also rapidly expanding internationally, which should bode badly for the global obesity rate.
In the United States, the big picture is made up of a lot of smaller pictures — not only in the 50 states, but even the situations in individual cities. Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News chewed over some information about the obesity stats and projected medical expenses in some particular places.
Just as an example of how crazy it can be, trying to make sense out of all the data, take a random paragraph from a report on Dr. Gopal K. Singh’s analysis of information gleaned from the National Survey of Children’s Health Data. After noting that overweight “appears to vary widely among states,” Tara J. Broido quotes the researchers:
Between 2003 and 2007, obesity prevalence… declined by 32 percent for children in Oregon and doubled among female children in Arizona and Kansas… Children in Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Georgia and Kansas had more than twice the adjusted odds of being obese than children in Oregon… Several Southern states — including Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee — were in the top one-fifth of both childhood and adult obesity rates in 2007.
Speaking of Louisiana, the Bogalusa Heart Study took on the job of examining obesity trends over a 35-year period and came to this conclusion:
In semirural Bogalusa, the childhood obesity epidemic has not plateaued, and nearly half of the children are now overweight or obese.
Researchers note that there is no difference in obesity trends according to race. The number of black children living in poverty is twice that of the number of poor white children, yet their obesity rates are pretty much the same. From this, the researchers also deduce that socioeconomic status is not really an issue. Rich or poor, black or white, everybody is at risk. Childhood obesity is an equal-opportunity offender!
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Heidi Blanck,” fulbright.pt, 04/05/12
Source: “Which are America’s fattest cities?,” MSNBC.com, 05/29/12
Source: “Study documents geographic variation in childhood obesity,” EurekAlert, 05/03/10
Source: “The Pediatric Obesity Epidemic Continues Unabated in Bogalusa, Louisiana,” Pediatrics, 04/05/10
Image by Seattle Municipal Archives, used under its Creative Commons license.