Tag Archives: Obesity

2012 Gallop-Healthways Well-Being Index Report: Most Obese Metropolitan Areas

The Gallop-Healthways Well-Being Index attempts to track Americans’ physical and emotional health and quantify other information necessary to evaluate programs that can increase productivity and lower healthcare costs. Every year, the information collected throughout preceding months is used to generate a report of those metropolitan areas that have the highest obesity rates among its citizens.

Well, it’s that time of year again.  The report has been released, and the results are weighty:

1.  McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
Obesity rate: 38.8 percent
Health care costs due to obesity: $411 million

2.  Binghamton, New York
Obesity rate: 37.6 percent
Health care costs due to obesity: $132 million

3.  Huntington-Ashland, West Virginia-Kentucky-Ohio
Obesity rate: 36 percent
Health care costs due to obesity: $147 million

4.  Rockford, Illinois
Obesity rate: 35.5 percent
Health care costs due to obesity: $179 million

5.  Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas
Obesity rate: 33.8 percent
Health care costs due to obesity: $183 million

6.  Charleston, West Virginia
Obesity rate: 33.8 percent
Health care costs due to obesity: $147 million

7.  Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida.
Obesity rate: 33.5 percent.
Health care costs due to obesity: $279 million

8.  Topeka, Kansas
Obesity rate: 33.3 percent
Health care costs due to obesity:$110 million

9.  Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Washington
Obesity rate: 33.2 percent
Health care costs due to obesity: $117 million

10.  Reading, Pennsylvania
Obesity rate: 32.7 percent
Health care costs due to obesity: $190 million

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FOOD FACTS: we really don’t eat 29 pounds of french fries per year…. do we?

Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli denounced the use of statistics to support weak or illusory arguments.  Not surprisingly, I’m not nearly as smart as either Mr. Twain or British Prime Minister Disraeli.   I’m therefore going to celebrate the quantitative joy of using statistics to set forth a few fun facts for a Friday afternoon:

  • The typical person consumes 195.2 pounds of meat per year, or a little more than the weight of the average adult male.  This is 50 pounds more than the average person consumed on an annual basis just fifty years ago.
  • The average American now consumes approximately 2700 calories per day.  Forty years ago, the average American consumed 2200 calories, which is almost 25 percent less than contemporary figures.
  • Around fifty years ago, the average female weighed 140.2 pounds.  The average weight of women is now 164.3 pounds.
  • Also, fifty years ago, the average male weighted around 166.3 pounds.  Today, the average man’s weight is 191 pounds.
  • Not surprisingly, over 34 percent of adult men and women are now overweight.  An additional 40 percent of adult men and women are obese.

One final statistic: reading 50% of the posts on this blog will make you 33% smarter than 23% of the population… most of the time.

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THE NATIONAL WAISTLINE: major league baseball and free agency serve as a reminder that obesity impacts far more than long-term physical health

DISCLAIMER:  This isn’t necessarily a post about baseball, at least insofar as it isn’t directed towards fans of our national pastime.  Personally, I get giddy when pitchers and catchers report to camp, and I’m sure that I’ll toss out a few entries about about prospects and sabermetrics during the season.  For the time being, if you’re looking to read about signings, trades and arbitration, I’d suggest looking at ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the Sporting News or HardballTalk.  

UPDATE:  Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers have agreed to a contract that will reportedly pay the slugger $214 million over 9 years.  Good for Prince.  Shame on Sports Illustrated for running a headline that referred to the deal as a “hefty gamble.”

Prince Fielder stands to make a heck of a lot of money.  The 27-year-old first baseman is an elite slugger and the best remaining free agent in Major League Baseball.  Any number of organizations would jump at the opportunity to insert him into their starting lineups.  They’ll have to show him the proverbial money, though, because he is asking for a contract that will pay $200 million over the next eight to ten years.

His productivity certainly suggests that he’s deserving of a lucrative contract.  Prince has, however, encountered a bit of a stumbling block in his negotiations.  Organizations are leery about committing so much money over such an extended period of time because they’re concerned about his ability to maintain his current level of production.

That’s not necessarily a surprise, simply because $200 million is a heck of a lot of money and eight to ten years is a heck of a long period of time.  Professional athletes are human, after all, and their skills and abilities will regress as they age.  Fiscal responsibility almost necessitates a comparison of the cost of later years with the expected regression in productivity during that time.

Well, maybe this situation is a little bit unusual, because Prince is a little bit different than the average major leaguer.  He stands at less than 6 feet tall but tips the proverbial scales at around 275 lbs.  In other words, he’s big, and bigger bodies typically break down at an accelerated rate.  This essentially means that clubs fear they may not realize as great of a return over the life his contract as they would if they spent their money on a more athletic and fit player.

Now, I’m not writing this post to criticize Prince, his lifestyle or his work ethic.  I’m certainly not poking fun at his size.  A lot of people have difficulty in managing their weight regardless of how often they exercise or how much attention they pay to their diet.  There’s wisdom in the old sayings, and there’s certainly wisdom in knowing that we can’t simply judge a book by its cover.

Still, we often focus on the correlation between weight and long-term well-being, but the fact of the matter is that Prince’s weight threatens to cost him millions or tens of millions of dollars in the immediate future.  Most may not be able to relate to the scope of his salary, but a number of overweight and obese people experience economic consequences that are the direct result of their build.  In fact, Americans who struggle with their weight face a variety of challenges that are wholly unrelated to the size of their waist.  For example:

  • Obese people often suffer from stereotypes and negative social stigmata.  There’s little doubt that society wants her people to be thin, attractive and athletic.  This desire has helped foster an environment where the public is literally drowning in a sea of advertisements, television programming, Hollywood productions and celebrity appearances that typically involve only the most attractive and handsome people.  Obese people, on the other hand, are often viewed as lazy, sloppy and indulgent, and they’re often blamed for being unable to attain mostly unattainable qualities.

There are a number of other consequences of obesity that do not necessarily relate to a person’s long-term physical health.  These consequences don’t even begin to account for the aggregate impact that obesity is having upon our economy.  Research has shown, for example, that obesity may already be costing employers in excess of $73 billion per year.  It is also having a significant effect on the national economy, and the collective health care costs and overall loss of productivity resulting from obesity have been estimated to cost as much as $147 billion per year.

To put this in perspective: $147 billion is more than the gross domestic product of a number of countries, such as New Zealand and Hungary, and the figure is greater than the combined gross state product of South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Vermont.

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FIT FOR A KING: obesity rates finally plateau, but fast food franchise plans a return to fonder, fatter days

Well, at least we can start the new year with a bit of positive news:  obesity rates may have plateaued.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that shows that the prevalence of obesity may no longer be increasing at historic rates.   Cynthia Ogden, the lead author of the report, summarized its conclusions by explaining that

[t]here is really a slowing down of the rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity that we saw in the 1980s and 1990s… Those increases we saw earlier are not continuing, and we may be seeing a plateau.

The results are encouraging, especially considering that obesity rates nearly doubled during the two previous decades.  The epidemic still needs significant attention, however, because obesity continues to be prevalent throughout a broad spectrum of the population.  Approximately 35.5% of adult males and 35.8% of adult females are still obese.  Approximately 16.9% of children and adolescents also remain obese.  An additional 33% of adults and 15% of children and adolescents are overweight but not obese.  Society needs to make considerable progress in addressing its health and well-being.

Burger King wants you to know that it’s doing everything that it can to address the issue.  At the same time that the media was reporting the latest findings about the plateauing of obesity, it was also covering the franchise’s decision to test the feasibility of delivering fast food directly to its customers’ doorsteps.

/sigh.  Two steps forward and one step back.

In the past, customers needed to actually drive to a fast food franchise to purchase a Triple Whopper with Cheese, a large order of onion rings and a large chocolate shake.  This was apparently too much to ask, served as a detriment to the company’s business, and left many hungry adults and children in need of caloric satisfaction. If all goes as planned, the Home of the Whopper will now be bringing the whopper to our homes.  We’ll only need to momentarily relinquish the remote control and make a brief telephone call to celebrate the greasy goodness of the BK Triple Stacker with a side order of french-fry shaped chicken pieces.

Don’t mind me.  I’ll just skitter off to the kitchen and monotonously bang my head against the wall… over, and over, and over again.

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YOUR JOB IS MAKING YOU FAT: how office boredom affects your bottom and how your bottom affects the bottom line

You need to quit your job.  You should turn off the computer, move away from the desk, gather your belongings and quickly flee the scene.

Why?  Well, your job is really, really boring… and it’s making you fat.

A new study has revealed that one in four employees are bored at work, and that this boredom may lead to indulging on unhealthy foods while at work and the increased consumption of alcohol after hours.

Dr. Sandi Mann from the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom led a team of researchers who polled office workers.  Approximately twenty-five percent of respondents indicated that they were bored most of the time that they were at the office, essentially sleepwalking through the day in a catatonic state of existence.  Professionals often refer to this condition by its highly technical and scientific term: chronic boredom.

Dr. Mann explained that employees suffering from chronic boredom are more likely to eat excessive amounts of chocolate and similar snacks while at the office, and that they’re more likely to visit the local watering hole after punching the time clock.  The implications are fairly obvious: mindlessly snacking on unhealthy foods and routinely consuming alcohol can lead to weight gain and obesity.  These are… er… hefty concerns.

We already know that one third of American adults are obese and that another one-third are overweight.  We also already know that the prevalence of obesity has doubled over the past several decades and that obese people face increasing risks to their health.  These risks include significantly greater chances of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, liver and gallbladder disease, type 2 diabetes and various cancers.

Dr. Mann is now encouraging employers to implement programs that promote healthy means of coping with chronic boredom:

Reducing the sources of boredom could involve enrichment programs such as job rotation, multi-skilling and empowerment…  Encouraging healthier ways of coping could include education or providing healthy snacks and drinks in canteens [cafeterias].

Other researchers may agree that employers should be encouraged to implement these or other programs because employers are also suffering from the effects of obesity.  According to the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the disproportional size of an employee’s bottom may well be affecting an employer’s bottom line:

Obese workers miss more days of work and cost employers more in medical and disability claims as well as workers compensation claims. As a result, an average firm with 1,000 employees faces $285,000 per year in extra costs associated with obesity.

Not surprisingly, the aggregate effect of the situation is staggering: obesity may already be costing employers in excess of $73 billion per year.  It is also having a significant effect on the national economy.  The collective health care costs and overall loss of productivity resulting from obesity have been estimated to cost as much as $147 billion per year.

Just to put this into a bit of a thematic perspective: $147 billion could buy more than 148,000,000,000 Hershey Bars, these bars would weigh more than 14 billion pounds and they would contain more than 31 trillion calories.

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