Saturday, December 16, 2017

Obesity as a disease and a label

The Cleveland Clinic began calling obesity a disease in 2008, and AMA in 2013. Supposedly, this was to reduce discrimination and increase insurance coverage and government funding for research. Changing the label hasn't changed the problem. In 1991 approximately 12% of the US population was obese, and it was 38% in 2014 (CDC figures) with no single state having a rate lower than 15%, not even those with super active, outdoorsy populations that surf and climb mountains. Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans all have different rates, with Native Americans the highest and Asian Americans the lowest.

Now obesity is called a pandemic. I can't exactly find the right figures to compare, but in 1976 the median weight for adult males and females was 170 lbs. and 137.8 lbs. In 2014, the last I could find in CDC the average (not median) weight for adult males and females was 195.7 lbs. and 168.5 lbs. In 45 years the height for men increased 1/10 of an inch; and no gain at all for women (I could have sworn women were getting taller just from watching sports.)

We seem to be victims of our own achievement. Whereas for millions of years, most of the globe except for the very rich, didn't have enough calories and had to do physical labor to survive. Now we have far more calories than we need with food waste being a huge problem, and technology from automobiles to television to computers to moving from farm to city the last 100 years have conspired to create this new disease, never before known to humankind. We don't even have to get out of a chair to answer the phone or change TV channels.

Here's some librarian trivia. The 1987 report (DHHS 87-1688) used 1976-80 data, and the word "obesity" didn't even appear, except in the Library of Congress cataloging data for the report. The words used were "overweight" and "severely overweight."

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