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The United States of America is one of the most developed nations in the world. It has a well-developed infrastructure and stable economic situation. As a result, there were created all conditions necessary for people's prosperity as well as for total consumption of different products and services. It distinguishes the American people from other nations. It is essential to emphasize that it also gave Americans the possibility to consume different food products in large quantities. It established the specific eating habits of the U.S. residents. Regular Americans cannot imagine their life without the products that are currently offered by the food industry. Consequently, this abundance of food choices made the American nation face such health and social problem as obesity. Availability of food and its ability to normalize people's psychological state makes the food panacea to all problems to some extent. As a result, people gain weight and feel extra stress and depression. They automatically start to eat to get out of this state. A large part of the American diet comes from fast food facilities. Despite this fact, American people continue to eat food that they like. People in the U.S. consume little fresh vegetables and fruits. On the other hand, they tend to eat products with saturated fat and high sugar content. The lack of physical activity and the eating habits of the American nation are the main causes of obesity that significantly undermine the total health of the population and make a negative influence on the economic costs of the country and the everyday life of regular Americans.
Causes of Obesity
Obesity is rapidly spreading across the planet. The number of people who are overweight is increasing and takes epidemic proportions worldwide. The most interesting aspect of this problem is that this disease, which is becoming a global catastrophe, is voluntary. The United States of America is the first country which faced the rapid rise of obesity. Nowadays, the number of people with excess body weight in the USA is the largest in the world. “In fresh rankings of the world’s heaviest nations, the US once again tops the list as the most obese country, followed by Kuwait and Croatia” (“The U.S. is the Heaviest Nation in the World”). Many factors cause obesity in people. The main one is the fact that Americans do not limit themselves in their food consumption. It is the main reason why people suffer from excess weight in the U.S. There are also such additional factors as genetics, pollution, depression, sleep disorders, medication, and lack of exercise.
The essential reason that causes obesity among American residents is their habitual diet. During the last 50 years, there were made many efforts to increase the total health and wellbeing of the American nation. At the same time, there was done little in terms of teaching people good nutritional practices. The United States is a country of immigrants and does not have its own traditional cuisine, unlike the countries with centuries-old culture and ancient folk traditions. Thus, the Americans were totally defenseless against the dominance of junk food. With the development of different fast food facilities, Americans got used to fats, sugars, and large portion sizes. The distribution of the fast-food industry reached every American city, school, and family. “In the public debate over obesity, it is often assumed the widespread availability of fast-food restaurants is an important determinant of obesity rates” (Currie, Vigna, Moretti, and Pathania). There is no doubt that fast food is unhealthy and makes a significant contribution to the total obesity rate in the United States.
The variety of flavor enhancers used in fast food products has a detrimental impact on the diet and weight of Americans. These substances stimulate the appetite and inhibit satiety, forcing people to buy and eat more. Fast food and artificial flavorings contain glutamate, which hampers the fight against obesity. It is the most common flavor enhancer which is contained almost in all fast food products. People consume more food products without thinking that it is the primary reason for their extra weight. The harmful fatty and sweet foods may desensitize the brain. Scientists conducted several studies that revealed that junk food, which one tends to buy for a quick bite, is similar to an addictive narcotic. The researchers emphasize that leaving the habit is very difficult. According to experts, harmful fatty and sweet foods may desensitize the part of the brain which is responsible for pleasure. If one eats too much, they will have to eat more and more in the future to achieve the same level of satisfaction (Pretlow). Doctors strongly recommend refraining from eating fast food or at least reduce its consumption to the minimum level.
The fast-food corporations also encourage people to buy their products by creating different advertising campaigns on television and providing various entertainment facilities for attracting children. As a result, one-third of American children suffer from extra weight or obesity (Toporek). It should be concluded that fast food is the main cause of the obesity rate in the United States.
Lack of Exercise
Another factor that contributes significantly to the increase in the obesity rate in the United States is a low level of physical activity and lack of exercise. “According to a survey done by the 2000 National College Health Assessment, 57% of male and 61% of female college students reported that they had completed no physical activity on at least three of the previous seven days” (Jeffords). With the development of the home entertainment industry, American children and teenagers prefer to spend their leisure time in front of the computer rather than outdoors. A child or teenager who spends 4 to 8 hours a day in front of the TV or computer and eats a large amount of high-calorie foods will soon become overweight. As experience shows, it is usually difficult to change one’s lifestyle and return to the previous weight. The absence of physical activity leads to caloric imbalance. People get too many calories and do a little exercise. As a result, it leads to an energy imbalance and contributes to obesity. Many American people have their own cars for transportation needs. They use them at every opportunity, which further limits their physical activity during the day. The American way of life brought extra comfort and mobility as well as problems with the obesity rate among the population of the country.
Other Causes of Obesity
The improper diet of the Americans and lack of physical activity are not the only causes of the obesity epidemic in the United States. The lack of sleep is a common factor of weight gain in the population. According to some scientists, an increased appetite that is developing during the irregularities and lack of sleep is associated with hormonal imbalance and the need to compensate for the lack of energy using food consumption. According to some reports, over the past decade, the average sleep duration in the United States decreased from 9 to 7 hours a day (Gumbiner).
The other factor that causes obesity is overeating as a reaction to a stressful situation. When struggling with the problem of obesity, great attention should be given to stress and depression. For many Americans, food became the only source of pleasure. Changes that occur in the secretion of hormones under the influence of stress factors enhance the synthesis of fats and block their decomposition. A person who is in a long depression might face changes in taste perception. In this case, abnormal psychological responses to stress are manifested in excessive use of foods that contribute to the production of endorphins, or so-called "happy hormones". Fat people are often subject to anxiety, depression, which leads to disruption of nutritional behavior. Strict dietary restrictions against this background may result in more failures.
Obesity and Health Problems
The increased amount of fats in the human body leads to health problems. There is no doubt that obese people suffer from different diseases and health problems more often than people with normal weight. Medical statistics show that in the initial stages of obesity when medicine can help, too few people consult the doctor. Unfortunately, people come to the hospital when they face secondary effects of obesity, including malaise, pain in the heart, headaches, shortness of breath, irregular stool, leg swelling, and so on. However, when people take medical advice, they do not usually look for the root cause, but request to somehow reduce the symptoms of obesity manifestation. Sometimes people are treated too late when the medicine is powerless to cure this dangerous disease and can only alleviate the sufferings. It should be clearly understood that obesity is a very serious and complex disease at any age. Regardless of its causes, it is accompanied by secondary changes in many internal organs. In the initial stages of obesity, functional and adaptive properties of the body persist. This is so-called compensated obesity. With the progression of obesity, there is a shift in its further state, as usual with the development of a syndrome of chronic failure of individual organs or systems. It is especially difficult to differentiate obesity as the cause of a disease, and obesity as a concomitant of underlying disease syndrome.
Obesity and Heart
Obesity affects many organs and systems of the body. It often leads to damage to the cardiovascular system. Medical examinations conclusively prove that 80% of obese patients revealed adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. In the first place, it is an increase in blood pressure (“Health Effects of Obesity”). The primary reason for this is the difficulty of blood flow due to the accumulation of fat in the body. It is very difficult for the heart to perform its mechanical work due to the extra fat. Obesity contributes to the development of atherosclerosis, as a large amount of fat increases the load on the heart and vessels. Even with the first degree of obesity, people could suffer from atherosclerosis. Obesity is associated with some of the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and the lowest concentration of cholesterol. Relative risks of most severe clinical manifestations of cardiovascular diseases in people with obesity are several times higher than in people with normal weight.
Obesity and Lungs
Obesity adversely affects the condition of the lungs. Fat creates a mechanical breathing obstruction. Also, it compresses veins related to the lungs, which leads to stagnation in the pleura and poor ventilation. All this results in the fact that obese patients often suffer from pneumonia. Disruption of the respiratory system is also related to the fact that massive subcutaneous fatty deposits restrict the movement of the chest, and large concentrations of fat in the abdominal cavity prevent the lowering of the diaphragm. Consequently, the relative pulmonary insufficiency increases when labored gas exchange is intensified by the increased oxygen demand due to the need to move a heavy body. In severe cases, these people are not capable of anything more than just a portion of air to move back and forth through frequent superficial and ineffective respiratory movements. In the early stages of obesity, people can already suffer from shortness of breath after minor physical activity due to changes in the mobility of the diaphragm and extensibility of the chest.
Obesity and Other Health Effects
Obesity is often accompanied by chronic gastritis, chronic cholecystitis, diabetes, renal disease. Almost 80% of people who suffer from diabetes are obese (“Health Effects of Obesity”). Obesity affects the human nervous system, which is manifested in sleep disturbance, increased appetite, thirst, vegetative disorders. Men often experience problems with potency, and women face problems with the menstrual cycle. Obesity is the main cause of disturbance of the endocrine system and water-salt metabolism. It leads to negative changes in the blood. This is just a shortlist of diseases that accompany obesity. Typically, one has several diseases, and they are intertwined in various ways. Even if there are diseases that are not related to obesity, their clinical course is far heavier due to obesity and with a variety of complications. As a result, the life expectancy of people who suffer from obesity is reduced by an average of 12-15 years (“Health Effects of Obesity”). Obesity is an essential factor in the development of different types of cancer in the human body.
Obesity and Economic Costs
The issue of obesity also has economic effects on American society. To maintain the health care that is related to obesity, the government must spend considerable funds. “The health care costs of obesity in the U.S. were estimated to be as high as $190 billion in 2005, a number that is double earlier estimates, and that is expected to rise, along with obesity rates, over the coming decades” (“Obesity Consequences”). The main spending is related to diagnosis or treatment and prescription drugs. Obesity also causes the loss of costs due to low productivity at the workplace. The Americans who are overweight are not able to attend to their work duties appropriately and need more time to organize their working day. Obesity may also affect transportation costs. The total increase in the obesity rate among Americans means that large vehicles and more fuel are needed to transport the same number of people annually. The other costs associated with obesity include higher insurance, lower wages, and income due to obesity-related illnesses. It is also important to notice that the epidemic of obesity in the United States limits the number of young men who reach the age for military service. They are too heavy to accomplish military tasks and duties. It has a serious effect on the American army and the national defense system in general.
Obesity is one of the main reasons why people cannot completely enjoy their life. It affects their physical activity and limits the ability to participate in different social events. People who gain extra weight cannot use their full potential and bring more benefits to the people that surround them. Obesity is one of the reasons why people cannot build a family and have a limited number of friends. The U.S. obese children are suffering from bullying and a lack of understanding from their peers. Further in life, they will be suffering from depression and low self-esteem. To fight obesity, it is necessary to take into account all factors that contribute to its development and remember about negative effects that this disease can cause on people.