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By angelicap123 May 08, 2013 1279 Words
Angelica Pisano
Dr. Boyle
Sociology 105
April 8, 2013
Obesity in America

Obesity is a common disease in the United States that has many causes and consequences. Genetics, the environment and the media are all common causes of obesity leading to health problems as well as economic issues. Another variable that contributes to obesity, less obvious than diet and heredity, is social networking (Schaefer 106). Today, over two-thirds of Americans fall into the categories of being overweight or obese. This number has more then doubled over the past three decades. In reality, America’s obesity-inducing environment, the sustained changes in behavior required to lose the weight and keep it off are simply too difficult and are becoming more difficult all the time (Zuckerman).

Lets first understand the difference between overweight and obesity. Being overweight means weighing too much. Obesity means having too much body fat. Your body mass index (BMI) is calculated by a person’s height and weight. In most cases, the higher the BMI the higher you are at risk of a disease. Both of these terms mean a person’s weight is higher then is should be, putting them at a greater risk with health issues. These health risks are as following: coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, dyslipidemia, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, osteoarthritis and gynecological problems. More than 80 percent of people in America that have Type 2 Diabetes is obese or overweight (ObesityinAmerica).

Genes play a role in the development of obesity. Our genes regulate how our body’s capture, store and release energy from food (ObesityinAmerica). Studies of resemblances and differences among family members, twins, and adoptees offer indirect scientific evidence that a sizable portion of the variation in weight among adults is due to genetic factors (ObesityinAmerica). Health care practitioners routinely collect family health history to help identify people at high risk of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and some forms of cancer (ObesityinAmerica).

Two interesting gene candidates have been found in mouse experiments, the ob and the db gene, the products of which are probably a satiety hormone and its receptor, respectively, which regulate food intake.

Type 2 Diabetes is developed when the body does not produce enough insulin. Leading up to obesity, the body begins to overproduce insulin in order to regulate a person’s blood sugar levels. Eventually, the body is unable to achieve the appropriate sugar levels in the body, which results in Type 2 Diabetes.

Environmental factors also contribute to the obesity epidemic. Human ecologists focus on how the physical environment shapes people’s lives and on how people influence the surrounding environment (Schaefer 425). According to ecologists, ecological changes in our food and diet have been related to early obesity and diabetes (Schaefer 425). It is very important to create an environment in certain locations, which make it easier to engage in physical activity and balance a healthy diet. Poverty, living conditions, location, lifestyles and the access to fast food are environmental factors that impact obesity.

People have the ability to control what they eat and how much physical activity they get, but the problem could be the environment around them are not supportive of their choices. The people around them, such as their family and friends, influence these choices. The environment would provide a safe place for exercise, but if it lacks a place for exercise this would only deter people from getting the amount of physical activity that is needed for their health. Today, most people drive to work and school because they are simply too far to walk. Many communities are not built around a safe environment where people can engage in physical activity. Another way the environment can be a factor of obesity is the access to fresh fruits and vegetables may not be affordable for some people. Therefore, they rely on the cheap fast food restaurants. Over the past fifty years, the eating habits of Americans have drastically changed. They are eating more processed food and less fresh fruits and vegetables.

A gene-environment interaction is likely in which individuals, particularly those who are genetically susceptible, are at risk for developing obesity in an environment that facilitates high-energy intake and low energy expenditure. In fact, obesogenic is a term that has been coined to describe a permissive environment that both promotes food intake and discourages physical activity. With an abundance of convenient, palatable, energy-dense foods and increasingly fewer demands for physical activity in usual lifestyles, the contemporary environment enables the energy balance to be tipped in favor of weight gain.

Obesity and overweight has had a significant economic impact on the health care system in the United States. Medical costs associated with overweight and obesity may involve direct and indirect costs. Direct medical costs may include preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to obesity. Indirect costs relate to morbidity and mortality costs. Morbidity costs are defined as the value of income lost from decreased productivity, restricted activity, absenteeism, and bed days. Mortality costs are the value of future income lost by premature death (CDC).

The media also has an impact on the contribution to why do many people in American are overweight and obese. People tend to devote more time to the media than physical activity. In 1999 a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average child between the ages of 8 and 18 spent 6 hours and 43 minutes each day with media — more time than they spent in school, with parents or involved in any activity other than sleep. Television dominates the free time of children and reduces their involvement in other activities (Obesity and the media).

Television plays a big role when it comes to the media. Since we have established that the majority of children spend more time watching television, the media is educating them, but is it educating them in a positive way? If you ever pay attention to the commercials on TV, you would see that the majority of them are advertisements. If you pay even closer attention you would find that many of these commercials are for fast food restaurants such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King etc. All these commercials are doing is influencing children to eat high-fat, high-sugar and high-salt foods, which is not good for their health. . These prominently advertised foods are consumed in greater quantities than healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables, which are rarely advertised (Obesity in America).

There are several other factors that contribute to obesity and overweight. The main factors are genetics, environmental and the media. The people of America have developed poor eating habits as well as the lack of physical activity they engage themselves in on a day to day basis. If something is not done to help this problem, it will only progress and more people will affect by obesity leading to health issues. Obesity is already one of the highest leading causes of death, how much worse can it actually get?

Work Cited

"Causes and Consequences." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.

"Obesity In America." Obesity In America. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.

"Recommended." Online Athens. Marsha Davis, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.

Schaefer, Richard T., and Robert P. Lamm. Sociology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983. Print.

"Social Networks Influence Obesity | Psych Central News." Psych N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.

Speakman, John R. "Journal of Nutrition." Obesity: The Integrated Roles of Environment and Genetics. The American Society of Nutritional Sciences, 2004. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.

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