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 “Prevalence and Trends in Obesity
Among US Adults”


Barbara Thompson

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 adults.

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 carbohydrates.

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!


Copyright © 2000-2013 Barbara Thompson All Rights Reserved