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In the Land of Giants: America's Ticking Health Time Bomb
Source: Open Talk Magazine 04/02/2011 02:30:00
Everything in America is on a gigantic scale. Giant buildings, giant malls, giant houses, giant cars, even the people are giant-sized.
It is this last entry in the sentence that is giving American authorities a giant-sized headache. American health care liability due to obesity is the highest in the developed world. America spends nearly 16-19% of its GDP on health care and over a $100 billion are due to obesity related disorders. Much of it can be avoided provided Americans take some radical action both at the policy level and at the individual level to cut down spending on health care.
This was not always the case. Just a few decades back, Americans across communities were at least two sizes smaller, were leaner, fitter and had better overall health (We are not talking about medically assisted prolongation of life span).
So what has changed? A lot! For starters, Americans a few decades ago, spend more time in real leisure and physical work than they do today. Computer games and virtual reality have replaced the tennis racket, trekking, baseball, basketball and scores of other activities that involved burning of real calories. Go to any average American home and you will find, single or both parents rushing off to work leaving their kids with a variety of laziness-inducing gadgets such as Sony PS2, X-box, Nintendos and precooked food to choose from, but with no real avenues for physical exercise.
Food, a few decades back, was a lot more wholesome in America. Today, Genetically Modified (GM) food, generous infusion of preservatives, salt, sugar and other additives are the prime reasons for rising obesity. In the search for maximizing profits and free market capitalism, America has signed off on the future health of its generations. Almost 93% of food grown in America today is genetically modified. Though the FDA has cleared GM food as being safe for human consumption with no adverse effects on health; no one has been able to explain why Americans are lot more bigly than they were a few decades ago. The argument that Americans are better fed today, hides the fact that they are over fed.
A few decades ago, there were no fast food joints outside schools and colleges, or vending machines churning out Mars bars in school cafeterias. Nor were there standardized comfort food serving over sized generous helping of potato mush and chicken to school kids. The result is that today about 66% of Americans are overweight compared to 47% in the 1970s. Everything has become oversized—from the size of pizzas, to bagels to popcorn bags and even coffee mugs with telling effect on girth size.
This alarming slide down the fatty lane can only be halted by a strong policy review at the federal and state level. As a policy, availability of junk food inside and around school and college premises must be banned. Authorities must launch a concerted anti-obesity awareness campaign to sensitize the American people—a move that requires generous allocation of funds. At the policy level, there must be punitive measures to discourage people from getting fat.
A review of GM food technology and use of ripening agents is urgently required as some studies are pointing to alarming conclusions that such additives are crossing the placental barrier and may be the cause for a fatter, bigger America. At the individual level, Americans must take responsibility for their own health and diet. While the government and Monsanto can be blamed for feeding the public GM food from which there is no escape, there is absolutely no reasons why every American cannot take one hour off every day and hit the road or the gym and stave off a ticking bomb that can only spell disaster.