FOOD, Inc. and America’s War on Obesity

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FOOD, Inc. and America’s War on Obesity

In America today we are faced with a broken healthcare system and ever-escalating healthcare costs that have spiraled completely out of control and threaten to bankrupt America. The solution is not to throw more money at an already broken system but rather to find the major causes of poor health and then to address and eradicate them. Identifying the major cause is the easy part. I’m convinced that America’s obesity epidemic is the single biggest problem and cause of ever-escalating healthcare costs. And one of the major culprits is the Standard American Diet (SAD). In simple terms, Americans are digging their graves with a knife, fork and spoon. But who is to blame? Is it the average American for not controlling his or her caloric intake? Or is there something else that needs to be considered and addressed?

Consider. This past weekend I viewed a new documentary titled “FOOD, Inc.” that addressed this issue—the healthcare and obesity crisis in America—head-on, in a way that I had not seen presented before. It did this by addressing the food processing industry itself and what it does to enhance its profits across the board. Now, before I go any further, let me state that this was not a documentary following some guy for a month eating three meals each day at a McDonalds or some other fast food restaurant. Instead, it addressed how food is grown and processed for the American consumer at large (no pun intended). To say that it was a major eye-opener for me is an understatement. I watched it twice.

But after watching it, I was curious. I wondered how much heavier the average American is today by comparison to 1960, which in less than 2 months from now will be officially 50 years ago. So I went to the website of the CDC, and what follows is just some of the information I found there. It compared several years from the 1960s with the year 2002, which is now nearly 8 years ago. So here goes.

Height & Weight differences of the average American between 1960 and 2002 as statistically compiled by the CDC

Average adult Americans are about one inch taller, but nearly 25 pounds heavier than they were in 1960. The bad news is that average BMI (body mass index, a weight-for-height formula used to measure obesity) has increased among adults from approximately 25 in 1960 to 28 in 2002.
The report, “Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index (BMI) 1960-2002: United States,” shows that the average height of a man aged 20–74 years increased from just over 5'8" in 1960 to 5'9½" in 2002, while the average height of a woman the same age increased from slightly over 5'3" 1960 to 5'4" in 2002.

Meanwhile, the average weight for men aged 20–74 years rose dramatically from 166.3 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002, while the average weight for women the same age increased from 140.2 pounds in 1960 to 164.3 pounds in 2002.

Though the average weight for men aged 20–39 years increased by nearly 20 pounds over the last four decades, the increase was greater among older men:
• Men aged 40–49 were nearly 27 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared to 1960.

• Men aged 50–59 were nearly 28 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared to 1960.

• Men aged 60–74 were almost 33 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared to 1960.
For women, the near opposite trend occurred:

• Women aged 20–29 were nearly 29 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared to 1960.

• Women aged 40–49 were about 25½ pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared to 1960.

• Women aged 60–74 were about 17½ pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared to 1960.

Meanwhile, the report documented that average weights for children are increasing as well:

• The average weight for a 10-year-old boy in 1963 was 74.2 pounds; by 2002 the average weight was nearly 85 pounds.

• The average weight for a 10-year-old girl in 1963 was 77.4 pounds; by 2002 the average weight was nearly 88 pounds.

• A 15-year-old boy weighed 135.5 pounds on average in 1966; by 2002 the average weight of a boy that age increased to 150.3 pounds.

• A 15-year-old girl weighed 124.2 pounds on average in 1966; by 2002 the average weight for a girl that age was 134.4 pounds.

According to the report, average heights for children increased as well over the past four decades. For example:

• The average height of a 10-year-old boy in 1963 was 55.2"; by 2002 the average height of a 10-year-old boy had increased to 55.7".

• The average height of a 10-year-old girl in 1963 was about 55.5"; by 2002 the average height of a 10-year-old girl had increased to 56.4".

• In 1966, the average height of a 15-year-old boy was 67.5"; by 2002 the average height of a 15-year-old boy was 68.4".

• In 1996, the average height of a 15-year-old girl was 63.9"; by 2002 the average height of a 15-year-old girl had not changed significantly (63.8").

Average BMI for children and teens has increased as well:

• In 1963, the average BMI for a 7-year-old boy was 15.9; in 2002 it was 17.0. For girls the same age, the average BMI increased from 15.8 to 16.6 over the same period.

• In 1966, the average BMI for a 16-year-old boy was 21.3; in 2002, it was 24.1. For girls the same age, the average BMI increased from 21.9 to 24.0 over the same period.

The BMI is a single number that evaluates an individual’s weight status in relation to height. BMI is generally used as the first indicator in assessing body fat and has been the most common method of tracking weight problems and obesity among adults.

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