Americans are the fattest people on the planet and continue to expand. According to a
survey of adult men and women in the United States during 1999-2000, published in JAMA: The
Journal of the American Medical Association, 30.5% of Americans are obese, up from 22.9% ten
years earlier, and nearly two-thirds (64.5%) are overweight (Flegal, Ogden, & Johnson, 2002).
Excess weight isn’t just a matter of looks. Obesity magnifies the risk of heart disease, diabetes,
high blood pressure, and other ailments thus overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of chronic
illness (Brownell & Horgen, 2004, p. 4). An especially disturbing aspect of this trend is that
children are increasingly obese. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2002) reports
that the percentage of obese children aged 6 to 11 almost quadrupled from 4% in 1974 to 15% in
2000, and the percentage of obese children aged 12 to 19 increased from 6% in 1974 to 15% in
2000 (United States, 2002). Obese children have a 70% chance of becoming obese adults with a
much higher risk of serious illness than those of normal weight (Brownell & Horgen, 2004, p.
46). Furthermore, obese children suffer many serious health problems today. Pediatricians now
routinely treat atherosclerosis and type II diabetes, diseases that used to be frequent only among
older people (Tyre, 2002, p. 38). Today’s children are among the first generation in American
history who may die at earlier ages than their parents.
For most people in the United States, obesity is a matter of individual choice and oldfashioned
willpower (Lee & Oliver, 2002). The usual advice for overweight people is to eat less
and exercise more, but how applicable is this advice for children unless they have strong
guidance from adults? How can children make intelligent choices about eating in an
environment where overeating is normal and where few adults know what’s in the food they eat?
The United States has been... [continues]
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