The obesity epidemic in the United States is a national health crisis, stimulating the need to explore the most probable cause and factors and develop practical health approaches to manage this menace. Approximately 18.5% of American children aged 2-19 are obese, and about and 42.4% of the adult populations are obese. It is estimated that obesity causes nearly 280,184 annually in the U.S., with about one-third of the children born in the country is expected to develop obesity problem in their lifetime (Arteaga, Sonia, et al. 960). Even though obesity may not be a severe disease common to the public as contagious flu, irreversible illnesses such as AIDs or deadly cancer, there are several links of the epidemic to health complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and premature aging, depression, and passiveness. More critical is that obesity decreases life quality as an obsessed individual may not live everyday active life. Genetics, dietary patterns, and physical inactivity are the significant factors of obesity to consider when talking about obesity in the United States when the problem seems to be critical and acute.
Data & Methods
This study will adopt a casual-comparative design to examine the possible cause-and-effect relationship of obesity or overweight in the United States, observing overall effects and searching back through publish and primary data for probable causal factors of obesity. The causal-comparative approach makes the research descriptive, and both quantitative and qualitative study approaches, but the mainly quantitative approach will be adopted for this study. The study will collect primary data on dietary patterns and physical activities across the United States using structured questionnaires. The questionnaires will be administered through online platforms will the help of a research company. The respondents shall be selected randomly to minimize bias in responses. Secondary data on diet and physical activities, including physical education, will be obtained from published literature and government reports.
Childhood Obesity Factors in the U.S. and Preventive Measures
The obesity epidemic in the U.S. can be argued to be genetically predisposed. As such, the governments and non-governmental organizations may not level the curve of the crisis. Practically, some individuals are born with greater chances of being overweight and ultimately obese than others. In recent years, the obesity problem has grown to epidemic levels in societies that promote high-calorie diets and physical inactivity (Hales, Carroll, Fryar, and Ogden 19). However, not everybody living in such communities become obese. It is also noted that not every individual in the same environments suffer similar health complications or have equal body fact distribution. The differences are evident in people from the same family, racial or ethnic groups.
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Genetic changes in humans are prolonged to contribute to the spread of obesity among populations. However, research suggests that variation in response to the environments among people suggest genes contribute to some extent to the spread of obesity. The genetic predisposition may not be regarded as a purely “American problem” as the pattern is almost equally spread amongst diverse ethnicities and races globally (Shwetha and Farooqi 2080). Statistically, about 20% of the global population are obese. However, the number is higher in the U.S. population, with about 42.4 adults currently and 18.5% of children now obese, and an indication of an obesity crisis (Hales, Carroll, Fryar, and Ogden 23). However, families may not change their genetic patterns but change the environment to promote healthy dietary practices and physical inactivity. The changes can improve family members’ health and, consequently, their next generation’s health history.
Eating habits also explain why obesity is more severe in the U.S. than in other nations such as Russian, Germany, France, Japan, or Brazil. Americans are more inclined to substantial soft drink and fast food consumption. Drinking Coca-Cola and eating pizza, French fries, and cheeseburgers top the list of metabolism inhibitors in contemporary American society. Consumption of fast foods and soft drinks regularly by American teenagers slow their metabolism rate by about twelve times. The foods are digested and absorbed at a slower pace than healthy diets (Vikraman, Fryar and Ogden 106). Many environmental and social factors have adversely influenced the eating patterns of American children.
Time and economic pressures force several families to reduce meal preparation duration and overall food cost, resulting in a surge in consumption of pre-packaged convenience diets, which are in excess of fat and calories. Our children are also frequently targeted by junk food marketers and fast-food restaurants found in almost every school’s neighborhood. As a result of the economic and time pressure, childhood obesity has become epidemic (Hruschka, p 277). Another critical point to note when discussing American dieting patterns is the lack of vegetables and fresh fruits in their diet rations. Many Americans tend to think of “a glass of orange juice watered down from concentrate and flavored with artificial sweeteners.”
In some cases, “a few grapes on top of a cupcake for dessert” or “a bowl of spinach salad for dinner” are considered just enough to provide the needed microelements, vitamins, and mineral to the body and fresh our minds (Vikraman, Fryar and Ogden 106). Nevertheless, this is far from the recommended level of fruits needed for healthy development as informed by dietitians. The body requires at least five varieties of fruits and vegetables daily to maintain healthy growth. The critical requirement is to consume varieties of fresh and garden-grown fruits and vegetables (Vikraman, Fryar, and Ogden 107). Nevertheless, this seems nearly impossible in an average American’s life. Recently, there are few local marketplaces to buy fresh and naturally grown fruits and vegetables recently picked from the firm.
Most of the fruits and vegetables are by supermarket chains across the U.S. Vegetables and fruits from supermarkets chains such as Safeway and Walmart do supply even 50% of the valuable nutrients (Crowe Lacy and Columbus 46) required compared to organically home-grown fruits and vegetables from our gardens picked fresh for consumption and not contaminated chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers used for commercial farming. However, growing own vegetables and fruits in the home gardens is not an ordinary act among many Americas as very few are willing to engage in such. The solution that favors most average Americans is to shop organic, fresh, and healthy fruits and vegetables over the unhealthy calorie-boosted fast foods such as snacks and carbonated drinks.
The third factor often forgotten when exploring the surge in obesity cases in the U.S. is the serving portion size factor. Comparative research has shown that the average “serving portion” is significantly higher than most nations in the world. For example, a single portion of pasta in a middle U.S. middle-class restaurant can be divided into several portions, 3.2 Chinese, 3.1 French, 2.8 Russian, 2.3 Polish, 2.2 Italian, and 3.6 Japanese portions (Crowe Lacy and Columbus 46), which begs the question as to whether Americans need to consume this much. Americans are not the most physically active people. Neither are they the tallest in the world.
However, for some reason, an average American consumer nearly twice or more than the Russians trek on foot about 3 miles daily. The Dutch are often on bicycles, while average Americans barely walk even half a mile per day. An average American is used to consuming more than the body requires from their early childhood (Crowe Lacy and Columbus 48). So next time when you step into a restaurant to order that full plat bowl of spaghetti and salad, and a glass of ice tea, take some time to remind yourself that the size of the stomach is just the size of average fits for a man, and stuffing it with full loads of foods do make any positive difference rather than predisposing you to obesity.
The minimal or lack of physical activities among Americans also contributes to obesity prevalence in the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the country’s rate of physical activities has significantly declined, beginning from high school where we should be introducing our children to the importance of living an active life (Kamal, Jamil, and Ansari p 34). The daily participation in physical participation in physical education among high school students has significantly declined by over 30% of the past decade. For instance, the study shows that only 22% of twelfth grade and 45% of 9th-grade learners attended regular daily physical classes (Kamal, Jamil, and Ansari 27). The inadequate physical activity for school children contributes to obesity both in childhood and adulthood as the behavior is likely to be carried forward as one transition to adult.
Solving this problem of reduced physical activities or physical education in schools fall for states, and federal governments should develop policies and regulations to improve physical education. For instance, there is evidence that the federal and state governments’ pressure to improve performance on state proficiency tests is forcing schools to minimize to eliminate the time for physical education classes and recess to meet the increased demands on academic performance. As a result, the physical education class rate has significantly declined in recent years, with only about 21% of the American schoolchildren attending such courses in a week (Kamal, Jamil, and Ansari p 13). The government should strive to balance performance and physical education to address the surge in obesity among our children. Policies mandating physical education classes are necessary.
Besides, average America’s adult life is passive as no one walks work, and very few people spend a portion of their day for physical activity. The U.S. neighborhoods and cities have limited open spaces for physical activities. More traffic on American streets and sometimes violence has turned many American parents into keeping their children indoors where television and computer games provide sedentary entertainment. Moreover, the U.S. neighborhoods encourage over-reliance on cars because of insufficient public transport systems and fewer trails, sidewalks, paths, and parks for biking and walking (Barbosa and Zhang 178). Despite such prevailing factors, families can still encourage indoor physical exercise; both the parents and children extend the physical activity to a convenient place such as homes. The little physical education schools alone cannot entirely address obesity, particularly in our children. Encouraging home indoor and outdoor exercise is necessary. A lot of YouTube videos are available online to assist with the indoor activity.
The obesity epidemic in the U.S. is a national health crisis that stimulates the need to explore the most probable cause and factors to the issue and develop practical health approaches to manage the increasing surge in the number of obese children and the adult population. There is a single approach to containing the escalating rise of obesity in the country. However, the most widely advised methods by researchers and health practitioners are healthy eating and physical activities. Individuals self-regulate their diet, and feeding patterns and physical activities for themselves and families as government policies along is not enough.
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