It's no secret that the United States is the most obese country in the world — but just how obese are we?
In 2010, more than 35% of the US population was obese, according to a recent NPR special series titled, "Living Large: Obesity in America." If the current trend of obesity continues, by 2030, half of all Americans will fall within that statistic.
Recent studies demonstrate that obesity rates correlate strongly with poverty rates. Since 1990, a shocking number of states have reached the point where one in every four residents is obese.
Image courtesy of NPR
Since the mid-20th century, obesity rates in America have been steadily creeping higher. In 1962, 13% of American adults were obese. That rate has risen to 35.7% in 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Marked changes in the American diet may be responsible for our nation's growing obesity epidemic. Since the 1950s, our annual sugar consumption has increased by 39%, while our cheese consumption has skyrocketed by 287%. The average American in 2000 ate 57 pounds more meat than the average American in 1950.
Studies show that the economic costs associated with obesity are massive. A 2003 study reported that yearly obesity related health care costs in the U.S. totaled $92.6 billion and accounted for 9.1% of total medical spending. Health care expenditures due to obesity now exceed those due to smoking and alcoholism.
It's not just society that bears the weight of obesity. The various costs associated with being an obese individual add up to thousands of dollars per year.
Image courtesy of NPR
In response, the American medical community is sounding the alarm. On June 18, the American Health Association convened in Chicago to declare obesity as a disease. In a measure passed by the AMA's House of Delegates, the group gave a broad definition of obesity as a medical condition:
"RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association recognize obesity as a disease state with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention."
The resolution cites a slew of organizations that already recognize obesity as a disease, such as The World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Obesity is changing the way we work, live, eat, and travel — it has permeated every corner of society. We've had to adjust our serving sizes and widen our revolving doors. What we need to change most, however, is the way that we as a nation view and address obesity. Being overweight isn't just the symptom of poor lifestyle choices. As the evidence overwhelmingly shows, America's obesity epidemic is the product of poverty itself.
Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic.