|A review of
Flegal, Katherine, et al. “Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among
US Adults, 1999-2000," "Journal of the American Medical Association,"
Vol. 288, Oct. 9, 2002, p. 1723-1727.
The media has latched onto the latest
report on the state of obesity in the United States.
The report appeared in the October 9th issues of
the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Not one to take anyone’s word for much, I rushed out to the
Library to read the article myself.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (or JAMA as
it is known) does not reprint its articles on the web so I had to go
to the source. This also means that, unfortunately, because of
copyright restrictions, I cannot reprint
the article or link to it for you to read. But I did want to give
you my thoughts.
The report analyses data collected by the National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) since 1960. It shows that the level of obesity was stable at about 14%
through the first survey (1960-1962), the second survey (1971-1974)
and the third survey (1976-1980).
Obesity then spiked up to 23% for the survey conducted
1988-1994 and continued the upward trend to 30% for this most recent
survey, 1999-2000. The most recent survey collected data from 4,115
So what is the difference? What
happened in that period between 1988 and now that has caused obesity
to increase at such an alarming rate? Some say it is the lack of
exercise. I have to ask
a question of those of you who are my age (look at my picture on my
website and guess!). Did
your parents exercise? Mine
didn’t. I can’t imagine my father putting shorts on and going to a
gym. Just the thought
of that defines for me the internet expression “laughing out loud,
rolling on the floor.” My mother had one of those machines with
the vibrating belts. Remember,
you put the belt around your hips, turned on the machine and the
belt was supposed to jar your fat loose!
But exercise? Not really. And although I am a great believer
in exercise, I don’t think that is it.
Others say it is the prevalence of fast food which is so full of
fat. I don’t believe
that one either. My
family ate very fattening food.
We had bacon and eggs and lots and lots of red meat.
We ate like everyone else in the neighborhood.
So I don’t think that is the difference.
The spike started in the 1988 to 1994 period.
What happened in that time period to start the dramatic
upward trend in obesity? I
believe that it was the institution of the food pyramid in 1992 that
started this with the bottom of the pyramid heavy with
Admittedly, I was already obese when the pyramid was instituted,
but I dieted through that period eating lots of carbohydrates
believing that is what I should do.
No wonder I had such a difficult time. Those of us who have
had weight loss surgery know the importance of protein to help
control your appetite. We
know that carbohydrates cause cravings because it raises your
insulin level and then when your insulin level drops, your body
signals for more insulin which you get in the form of carbohydrates.
It is a vicious cycle.
I hope the US Department of Agriculture admits their disastrous
mistake and revises that food pyramid to emphasize protein as
opposed to carbohydrates before the only slim people will be those
of us who have had gastric bypass surgery!