Obesity Expert Says United States Must Make Societal Changes To Cut Fat
The United States must make "wholesale changes" in the environment and in society to overcome the nation's "obesity epidemic," according to international obesity expert Phillip James, USA Today reports in the first of a multi-part series titled "Weight Warriors." James, chair of the International Obesity Task Force, says that Americans will "continue to struggle with their weight" until the country's approach to food and exercise changes. With 61% of the U.S. population either overweight or obese, James believes that Americans have been "mentally conditioned" to believe it is a personal responsibility to maintain weight, when the blame falls on society as a whole. The societal factors that cause obesity include being "bombarded" with advertisements for unhealthy food, not having enough biking and walking trails to encourage "spontaneous physical activities" and not providing enough areas for children to exercise through play, according to James, who is working on the World Health Organization's upcoming recommendations on nutrition and exercise. He says that in order to maintain healthy weight, people with a tendency to gain weight have to behave "abnormally and reject all the pressure to be like other modern Americans." James said that obesity is "the biggest reversible health problem in the world," increasing the chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer and arthritis, but he believes that the trend can be reversed. "There is an enormous amount of research that shows you can completely alter the environment, and people will automatically get up and on their feet," James said, adding, however, that "it is amazing that [Americans] haven't got a grip on the basic principles" of nutrition and exercise (Hellmich, USA Today, 8/22). Next week, USA Today will feature successful weight loss tactics and the scientific reasons for hunger.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.