Obesity, a Problem without Borders
> 3/6/2006 3:13:54 PM

For years the U.S. has been battling the looming health care threat presented by obesity.  According to the American Heart Association, among Americans 20 years old and over, nearly 140 million are overweight.  64 million are considered obese.  These numbers continue to grow.

A report in the March issue of the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity indicates that now this most American of afflictions is spreading very rapidly to rest of the world. Maybe most shocking of the reports claims: "Nearly half of the children in North and South America will be overweight by 2010, up from what recent studies say is about one-third."  European Union countries are in particularly bad shape, but even countries such as China and Egypt are in trouble.

“We have truly a global epidemic which appears to be affecting most countries in the world,” said Dr. Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force and author of an editorial in the journal warning of the trend. 

James said living in isolated areas was no longer a safeguard to securing quality of life or traditional eating habits.

He said children are “being exposed to the world’s marketing might,” arguing that governments should step in. “There needs to be a ban on all forms of marketing, not just television adverts.”

Sadly, this rhetoric will budge very few Americans from their seats.  And while it is one thing to call for a marketing ban, in this country particularly, very little will change until economic pressures are brought to bear on those who are flooding the market with unhealthy products.  As Dr. James warns, the real catastrophic situation will come down the road when the chickens come home to roost. The unhealthy eating and exercise habits that have led to this ballooning weight problem will create even nastier health troubles down the road.  Increases in heart disease, diabetes and stroke will place added strain on health care networks around the world. 

In a rather apocolyptic vision, Dr. James says that today's children will be the first generation to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.  I don't necessarily agree with that, because, for better or worse, our medical technologies will probably allow us to continue to prolong life.  If this trend of expanding waist lines continues however, the question will be at what overall quality?

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