Opinion

Do the planet a favor: Eat less and get more exercise

An analysis of states’ obesity rates shows that Americans are getting fatter. Twelve states now have obesity rates above 30 percent. Of the top 30 states with the highest obesity rates, 26 are in the Midwest and South.

According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mississippi has the highest number of obese residents at 34.9 percent. Colorado has the fewest at 20.7 percent.

Washington ranks 33rd with 26.5 percent of our population qualifying as obese.

The CDC defines overweight as an adult with a body-mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9, and obesity as a BMI of over 30. Body-mass index is calculated by using a formula based on weight and height.

A BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered the ideal amount of body weight, and is associated with long life and low incidence of serious illness.

The Trust for America’s Health, which analyzed the CDC data, calls obesity “one of the biggest health crises the country has ever faced.”

Increases in type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, among other serious illnesses resulting from obesity, have medical experts fretting about the accompanying spike in health care costs.

That’s worrisome on its own, but there is another broader, global concern: the effect of worldwide obesity on food security.

A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says that global obesity has a similar effect on the world’s food supply as adding a half-billion people of normal weight to the planet.

Or, put another way, data from the United Nations and the World Health Organization show the combined weight of the world’s population tips the scales at 316 million tons, or 633 billion pounds. The organizations say 16.5 million tons is excess fat.

The London study also found that Americans are adding more than our share of the extra weight. The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, but about 33 percent of the weight from obesity.

Compare that with Asia, which has 61 percent of the population, but only 13 percent of the weight from obesity.

Overweight and obese people consume more food. More food requires more farmland, and more consumption of energy during production and transportation.

Scientists debating the sustainability are no longer concerned solely with over population, or how many mouths there are to feed. They are now factoring in how much food each of those mouths is swallowing.

The solution is as simple as it has always been: eat less, exercise more.

And, while you’re at it, consume less sugar, trans fat and sodium. It will improve your health and assist in your weight loss. You’ll be more likely to avoid an obesity-related disease, and consequently less likely to contribute to rising health care costs.

Another recent global study found that 40 percent of Americans get little or no physical activity, ranking us among the most lazy people on Earth.

By comparison, Greece was the most active, with just 15 percent of its population sitting on the couch.

So, get up. Go for a walk. Take 10,000 steps per day, preferably doing something you enjoy. Be happy that you are contributing to our environmental sustainability.

As the lead researcher in the London study put it, “We often point the finger at poor women in Africa having too many babies. But we’ve also got to think of this fatness thing; it’s part of the same issue of exceeding our planetary limits.”

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