Introduction and Analysis
Obesity is one of the most complex diseases currently afflicting modern society. It is ranked high among typical medical problems that affect a large segment of the population and a source of growing concern for many health practitioners. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 652 million adults aged 18 years and over are obese with the number projected to double within the next two decades (“Obesity,” 2018). These worrying statistics paint a picture of a disease that is clearly on a steady rise and difficult to avoid. However, the consensus among epidemiologists is that obesity is caused by a combination of predisposing factors that make individuals prone to developing the condition.
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Family inheritance, lifestyle choices, certain medication, and age have all been cited as predictors in the development of obesity in individuals across the board. Being overweight often means that individuals harbor an abnormal accretion of fat that places their body mass index (BMI) above 30. As a result, obese individuals are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular complications, chronic ailments, cancer and diabetes in comparison to healthy counterparts. Furthermore, the quality of life also diminishes as they grapple with social isolation, depression, low work achievement, and social isolation.
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A Review of Common Attempts to Address Obesity
Typically, high calorific intakes combined
with a sedentary lifestyle are common predictors of obesity. Although a
variable factor, the limited burning of these excess calories results in an
accumulation of fat that causes obesity.
One common attempt to address obesity is the inclusion of physical
activity as a daily regimen to aid in maintaining a healthy weight.
Additionally, research at the Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine also indicates that physical activity
reduces stress, lowers risks of osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer in
morbidly obese individuals (Bouchard,
2013, p. 54). Even so, few have demonstrated the
willingness to engage in physical activity. For instance, wealthy countries
such as the United States (U.S) and Saudi Arabia have recently recorded an
increase in sedentary lifestyles with limited amount of physical activity. Authorities
in the subject such as the U.S Department of Health and Human Services suggest
that such individuals should always ensure that they engage in vigorous
physical activity each week. One of the
most important points to acknowledge is that physical activity entails engaging
in routine exercise, daily commutes, chores, and play. These repetitive
activities can vary in intensity but with the primary aim of burning calories
and preventing excessive weight gain. An increase in energy expenditure results
in an overall equilibrium in the body which also enables any excess weight that
had been gained to be burnt. Moreover,
it reduces abdominal obesity by strengthening the muscles which eventually
makes controlling the weight an easy task. Researchers recommend an hour of
physical activity a day as an essential routine that helps in maintaining a
healthy weight and managing obesity.
The recent increase and convenience of fast foods has widely been blamed for the increase in obesity levels witnessed across the globe. Foods offered in a majority of franchise food outlets such as Kentucky Fry Chicken (KFC), Dominos and McDonalds have high-fat content with many consumers remaining unaware of this fact. One of the techniques designed to curb the ever-increasing weight problem is public education about the calorific and nutritional content of the foods consumed. The idea behind this campaign stems from a need to arm the public with critical knowledge when purchasing foods which allows them to make informed choices. Food labeling was first embraced in the United States (U.S) when Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) in 1990 (Keller, 2012, p. 234).
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Through the U.S Federal and Drug Administration (FDA) manufacturers were expected to list the nutritional content of their products. Apart from the front-label packaging of foods in restaurants, those sold in vending machines and stores are also required to adhere to these guidelines to inform the calorific content to make sure that buyers are always aware of these details. In a recent study conducted by the FDA, food labeling was hailed for transforming consumer behavior and making informed choices. It is also through this information on the nutrition label that consumers have, time and again, changed their minds about purchasing a particular fat food. The immediate result is low consumption of goods with saturated fat and a subsequent drive towards foods with high nutritional value.
trans-fats is one of the most effective initiatives in the fight against
obesity. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists trans-fats among substances
that are very likely to cause harm to the human body and a major source of obesity.
The global food supply often utilizes these hardened vegetable fats since they
are economical and readily available. For instance, ghee and margarine are
commonly used in the food industry in the production of snacks and dried foods
to the detriment of the consumers. Unscrupulous business owners have also been
known to use them for an extended period well beyond their shelf life to avoid
extra costs. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization (WHO)
penned a six-point strategic plan urging governments to clamp down on the use
of trans-fats in the food industry (“WHO welcomes industry action to align with global
trans-fat elimination targets,” 2019). The main motivation
behind his campaign is the sudden increase in cardiovascular disease among
individuals who are considered as being overweight and struggling with the
damaging effects of obesity. This has prompted campaigns aimed at the
sustainable elimination of trans-fats by policymakers by enforcing a plethora
of compliance regulations and policies aimed at reducing the levels of
individuals with obesity. Denmark and New York City serve as the best examples
of jurisdictions committed to fighting obesity by passing legislation banning
the use of industrially manufactured trans-fats in restaurants.
Increased Taxation of Beverages with High Calories
An increase in the consumption of high-calorie beverages is partly responsible for the global obesity epidemic affecting society. Sweetened soft drinks and juices are now a common feature in elementary school diets which significantly increases their likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. They are associated with insulin resistance and abdominal obesity which results from an increase in lipoprotein cholesterol levels an important fact to note is that these beverages offer no dietetic value to the consumer but only increase the calories consumed in one sitting. As a novel approach, legislators and policymakers in the United States have proposed increased taxation on these beverages as a solution to the obesity epidemic.
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In particular, vending machines often found in schools provide students with a unique opportunity to purchase these high-calorie beverages while being unaware of its effects on their health. Increasing taxation for non-diet sodas and flavored drinks would, consequently, drive consumers towards healthier beverages with a lower cost thus reducing obesity. The State of New York has always been at the forefront of the fight against obesity. In 2008, Governor Peterson tabled a bold proposal of an 18% increase in sales tax for any high-calorie beverage sold within the state (“Obesity Epidemic: Challenges, Health Initiatives, and Implications for Gastroenterologists,” 2010). Although his proposal was not well received by individuals with vested interests in the food industry, such drastic measures are needed if the scourge of obesity is to be managed.
The adverse consequences of being overweight and obese are now highly publicized. As a consequence, medical experts, researchers and policymakers alike have proposed common attempts to address this problem. Physical activity, food labeling and elimination of industrially-manufactured trans-fats are the most typical approaches that have been implemented in recent years. Correspondingly, increased taxation of beverages with a high calorific value is now being considered as a novel approach in managing obesity amongst adolescents and adults alike.
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