Thursday, August 6, 2009

Losing the War on Obesity

According to a new study published in the journal, Health Affairs, obesity costs the country $147 BILLION in weight-related medical bills every year (based on 2008 expenditures) - an amount that is DOUBLE the costs from a decade ago.

At least HALF of the $147 billion in obesity-related healthcare costs are paid for by taxpayers via Medicare and Medicaid - and Americans spend upwards of another $50 billion in out-of-pocket expenses related to trying to lose weight (diet products, books, programs).

Obesity accounts for almost 10% of ALL medical spending (9.1% according to the latest data) - with obese patients spending $1,429 more each year on healthcare than those at a healthy weight. Most of these extra costs pay for prescription drugs to control high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, gastric reflux, arthritis, and other diseases that are caused by obesity).

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 34% of American adults are obese (72 million people) and more than 2/3 of Americans are overweight (66% of the population). Obesity and Diabetes are the only major health problems that are getting worse - and they’re both getting much worse very rapidly.

As a nation, we’re almost 5 billion pounds overweight - and the average American is 23lbs overweight - mostly due to the fact that the average American eats 250 more calories each day than they did 20 years ago (most of which is in the form of fast food, snacks, and sweetened sodas). Do the math - 250 extra calories per day = 91,250 extra calories per year = more than 26 extra pounds of FAT added to your frame in a single year (3500 calories per pound of fat).

Obesity is undoubtedly one of the simplest medical conditions to recognize - but perhaps the hardest to treat. By age 11, at least one-third of American kids are overweight - and most of them will go on to develop diabetes and become one of the 100,000 premature deaths each year attributed to the obesity epidemic.

In the recently-released documentary Killer at Large (, a new award-winning feature-length film that explores the startling details of the American obesity epidemic, many obesity experts declared,
“This may be the first generation of children to have a shorter life expectancy than that of their parents.”

In the film, when asked what the most pressing issue is in America today, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona responded, “Obesity, because obesity is a terror within. It is destroying our society from within and unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist event that you can point out...”

I hope that you will view the short trailer of Killer At Large at or a longer trailer at (click on “Obesity Film” like at top right) and share it with you friends, colleagues, and Congressional representatives.

There are many “solutions” to the global obesity epidemic (it is not a uniquely American problem), but the key to any long-term success will have an underlying framework of ongoing individual support and encouragement to help people adopt and adhere to a healthy lifestyle. As long as the American government continues to subsidize the corn and soybean industries, we will continue to be bombarded with low-cost junkfood (corn- and soy-fed burgers and hundreds of refined foods loaded with high-fructose corn syrup) - that costs less than healthier fruits and vegetables precisely because of government-supported corn and soybean production.

Thanks for reading,


Shawn M. Talbott, PhD LDN FACSM

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