A Growing Epidemic: Wheat and Obesity - dummies

A Growing Epidemic: Wheat and Obesity

By Rusty Gregory, Alan Chasen

Wheat might be partly behind the growing epidemic of obesity. When people reminisce about growing up in the 1940s or 1950s, they talk about meals consisting of pasture-raised meats; vegetables from the backyard or local market; and lots of butter, cream, and even lard.

They may also mention that the bread at the table had a different texture and taste than today’s bread. They don’t, however, usually talk about the large numbers of overweight people they saw. That reality just didn’t exist.

Obesity and change in diet

Today, you probably have many friends and relatives are overweight and maybe even obese. You may be heavier than you and your doctor want you to be (maybe that’s why you’re reading this).

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 40 percent of men and 28 percent of women were overweight in 2012; in addition, another 34 percent of men and 36 percent of women were obese. As for children, a third of them between the ages of 2 and 19 were overweight, with 18 percent of those being obese. This number represents a fivefold increase since the early 1970s.

Being overweight is defined as having more body fat than is optimally healthy. Being obese is defined as having excess body fat that is likely to lead to reduced life expectancy and increased health problems. The concern is for the overweight individual who is leading an unhealthy lifestyle that furthers the weight gain, leading to obesity.

Obesity itself is a health condition, but it also contributes to other medical woes. The following are modern-day diseases that are affecting more people every day and are closely related to the obesity epidemic:

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Arthritis

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • Hypertension

  • Metabolic syndrome (high triglycerides, abdominal fat, high blood pressure, insulin resistance)

  • Stroke

Obesity’s costs in dollars to the United States are huge. Americans spend about $150 billion annually in health care tied to obesity alone, with an additional $75 billion in lost productivity.

Research shows that those who are obese take more sick days and are less effective while at work, which reduces productivity. If trends in obesity continue, these costs will only go up and pose more challenges to an already-stressed health care system.

Obesity: An expanding problem around the globe

On a worldwide scale, the Western diet has become a global diet. Globalization means that fast food full of wheat, sugar, and vegetable oils is sprouting all around the world. Countries such as France and Japan have seen their childhood obesity rates double over four decades. Obesity has actually replaced malnutrition as the number one problem in poorer countries.

Is the entire world turning into one big couch potato? Is everyone on earth losing the ability to exhibit self-control? Or are the foods themselves making people obese?