The Facts

This page is intended to be an educational resource. The goal is to provide quality information to viewers to help encourage healthy changes that can in turn help eradicate the food and health epidemic that our country, and our world, faces today. Below you will find facts about the current state of health for children, adults, and the world’s food ecology. 

Youth:

– Among children ages 2–19, about 1 in 3 are overweight and obese (BMI-for-age at or above the 85th percentile of the 2000 CDC growth charts.): 32.1% of all boys and 31.3% of all girls. source

– Among children ages 2–19, about 1 in 6 are obese (BMI-for-age at or above the 95th percettile of the CDC growth charts.): 17.8% of all boys and 15.9% of all girls. source

-Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight adults. This increases to 80% if 1 or both parents are overweight or obese. source

-The prevalence of BMI-for-age values ≥95th percentile of the 2000 CDC growth charts in children 6 to 11 years of age was 20% in 2007 to 2008 compared with 4.0% in 1971 to 1974.  source

-The prevalence of BMI-for-age values ≥95th percentile in adolescents 12 to 19 years of age was 18% in 2007 to 2008 compared with 6% in 1971 to 1974. source

-Compared with 1973 to 1974, the proportion of children 5 to 17 years of age who were obese was 5 times higher in 2008 to 2009. source

 Adults:
 
-Worldwide, more than a billion adults—about 35 percent—are overweight or obese, even more than are undernourished and hungry. That does not include an additional 42 million young children who are overweight. Being overweight can carry long-term health consequences, including heart disease and diabetes. source

-Among Americans age 20 and older, 149.3 million are overweight or obese (BMI of 25.0 kg/m2 and higher): 78.0 million men and 71.3 million women. source

-Of these, 75.0 million are obese (BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 and higher): 34.9 million men and 40.1 million women. source

Health Effects of Obesity:

-Obesity has a far-ranging negative effect on health. Each year obesity-related conditions cost over $150 billion and cause an estimated 300,000 premature deaths in the US. The health effects associated with obesity include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • high blood pressure – Additional fat tissue in the body needs oxygen and nutrients in order to live, which requires the blood vessels to circulate more blood to the fat tissue. This increases the workload of the heart because it must pump more blood through additional blood vessels. More circulating blood also means more pressure on the artery walls. Higher pressure on the artery walls increases the blood pressure. In addition, extra weight can raise the heart rate and reduce the body’s ability to transport blood through the vessels.
  • diabetes – Obesity is the major cause of type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes usually begins in adulthood but, is now actually occurring in children. Obesity can cause resistance to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. When obesity causes insulin resistance, the blood sugar becomes elevated. Even moderate obesity dramatically increases the risk of diabetes.
  • heart disease – Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is present 10 times more often in obese people compared to those who are not obese. Coronary artery disease is also more prevalent because fatty deposits build up in arteries that supply the heart. Narrowed arteries and reduced blood flow to the heart can cause chest pain (angina) or aheart attack. Blood clots can also form in narrowed arteries and cause a stroke.
  • joint problems, including osteoarthritis – Obesity can affect the knees and hips because of the stress placed on the joints by extra weight. Joint replacement surgery, while commonly performed on damaged joints, may not be an advisable option for an obese person because the artificial joint has a higher risk of loosening and causing further damage.
  • sleep apnea and respiratory problems – Sleep apnea, which causes people to stop breathing for brief periods, interrupts sleep throughout the night and causes sleepiness during the day. It also causes heavy snoring. Respiratory problems associated with obesity occur when added weight of the chest wall squeezes the lungs and causes restricted breathing. Sleep apnea is also associated with high blood pressure.
  • cancer – In women, being overweight contributes to an increased risk for a variety of cancers including breast, colon, gallbladder, and uterus. Men who are overweight have a higher risk of colon and prostate cancers.
  • metabolic syndrome – The National Cholesterol Education Program has identified metabolic syndrome as a complex risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome consists of six major components: abdominal obesity, elevated blood cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance with or without glucose intolerance, elevation of certain blood components that indicate inflammation, and elevation of certain clotting factors in the blood. In the US, approximately one-third of overweight or obese persons exhibit metabolic syndrome.
  • psychosocial effects – In a culture where often the ideal of physical attractiveness is to be overly thin, people who are overweight or obese frequently suffer disadvantages. Overweight and obese persons are often blamed for their condition and may be considered to be lazy or weak-willed. It is not uncommon for overweight or obese conditions to result in persons having lower incomes or having fewer or no romantic relationships. Disapproval of overweight persons expressed by some individuals may progress to bias, discrimination, and even torment.
 
-24 million Americans are afflicted by type 2 diabetes, often caused by poor diet, with another 79 million people having pre-diabetes. source
-Gout, a painful form of arthritis once known as “the rich man’s disease” for its associations with gluttony, now afflicts eight million Americans. source
Costs:

-The total excess cost related to the current prevalence of adolescent overweight and obesity is estimated to be $254 billion ($208 billion in lost productivity secondary to premature morbidity and mortality and $46 billion in direct medical costs). source

-If current trends in the growth of obesity continue, total healthcare costs attributable to obesity could reach $861 to $957 billion by 2030, which would account for 16% to 18% of US health expenditures. source

 
Food:

-The livestock industry uses 75 percent of all agricultural land for grazing and growing animal feed and produces at least 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. source

-About 2,500 plant species have been domesticated for food. But today, almost half our food calories come from just three grains: wheat, maize, and rice. What about the thousands of overlooked plant species—and an untapped diversity of animals? These resources could provide solutions to problems like the need for resilience in our food production systems and the need to meet growing demands without depleting natural resources. Here are a few promising examples:

  • Algae: Seaweed and other algae, already popular in Japan, are highly nutritious and can be grown in both fresh water and salt water.
  • Quinoa: This grain (Chenopodium quinoa) from the Andes contains all the essential amino acids the human body needs for protein and has no gluten.
  • Emmer wheat: While millions are spent on high-tech hybrids, neglected crops like the grain emmer (Triticum dicoccum), which requires less fertilizer and fewer pesticides than currently used breeds, are already being grown in places like Turkey.
  • Peach palm: The peach palm (Bactris gasipaes) grows well in Central and South America and produces a large, nutritious fruit. The tree’s spiny trunk makes the fruit hard to harvest—but breeders are now developing spineless varieties.
  • Giant swamp taro: The giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma chamissonis), which grows well in the salty, sandy soil of many Pacific islands, is rich in vitamins and minerals. Yellow varieties are high in beta carotene, which can help prevent blindness.
  • Sea buckthorn: Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) uses nitrogen from the air as fertilizer, thanks to specialized bacteria in its roots. These dense roots are also used to prevent soil erosion in China. The berries are hard to pick, but new machines should help with the harvest. Source

-About 414 pounds (188 kg) of food is discarded for each person in the United States each year at home, in stores and restaurants. That’s 1,656 pounds (751 kg) for a family of four. What Americans throw out each year:

  • 22% Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • 19% Milk and dairy, except eggs
  • 14% Grain products
  • 10% added sugar and sweeteners
  • 8% Processed fruits and vegetables
  • 18% Meat, poultry, fish & seafood
  • 7% Fats and oils source
 
Miscellaneous Facts:

 

 -The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Strategies to Combat Obesity.