Obesity Plagues The Country, Experts Say

By Jessi Rucker

Impact Staff

Three out of four Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020, which will subsequently increase diabetes rates and healthcare spending, according to a new study.

One out of every three children born in the United States after the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime, according to the New York State Department of Health. For Hispanic or Latino children, it is one out of every two.

Almost 95 percent of diabetics have type 2 (adult onset) diabetes that is most commonly caused by obesity. Nearly 85 percent of diabetics are overweight or obese, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The American lifestyle and especially that of college students does not always give way to habits of healthy eating to dodge these troubling statistics.

“Who can afford to go out and buy healthy food every day?” junior Caroline Francis exclaimed, frustrated with the vast difference between the price of fast food and health food.

The cost of food is not the only obstacle in the way of Mercy students quest for healthy eating. Sometimes it is an issue of convenience for Yibang Luo, who is in the Mercy MBA program.

“If I don’t have a lot of time I will just grab a quick sandwich, and it’s not always the most nutritious decision,” said Luo.

These obesity statistics are not only disturbing for health related reasons, but they also create huge roadblocks for the promise of national healthcare. Today, one out of every ten U.S. dollars spent on healthcare is attributed to diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. The average medical costs for a diabetic is four times higher than that of someone without diabetes.

If the current obesity trends were to stay consistent, by 2048 all American adults will become overweight or obese, according to Dr. Youfa Wang of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The best way to fight these obesity rates is to start teaching children at the elementary age about a healthy lifestyle,” said Prof. Vijaya Juturu, who teaches Nutrition course at Mercy.

Juturu gives presentations on nutrition to 4th- 12th graders and is always surprised to hear how many of them have improper diets at home.

“I find a lot of the parents are uneducated themselves, so it’s nice to send the kids home with some information to share with their family,” said Juturu.

Even though the Mercy cafeteria might offer some healthy options there is still plenty of fried fatty food, snacks and sodas that students do turn to in a hurry.

“The vending machines are awful. It would be really nice to see more fresh fruit and vegetables. I don’t like seeing the students gain weight on sugary snacks,” says Juturu.

With obesity rates skyrocketing, the government is also looking for ways to curb problems now for the future. President Obama and Governor Patterson locally, have proposed a non-diet soda tax to raise money towards the health care plan while decreasing the risk of obesity.

“I don’t think that’s really a solution. There is probably a 50 percent chance that the person wouldn’t buy the Coke. The change in behavior has to come from within the person not imposed on them,” Juturu says, unconvinced that a tax would prevent people from purchasing calorie filled energy drinks or syrupy sodas.

“I always get the most dramatic response from students when I show them pictures of the potential complications from obesity related illnesses,” Juturu mentioned when suggesting that there be more public health awareness in the media. “Clogged arteries and amputations can make sugary drinks and fried food seem much less desirable.”

Diet is important to many Mercy students, but just like Luo, who says a healthy diet is a priority explains, “Sometimes I just have to have some potato chips.”