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cmstfinalroughdraftobesity.docx (13)

cmstfinalroughdraftobesity.docx (13)

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Published by: Chloe Michelle Belisle on Aug 09, 2012
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Turning the Tide on Obesity
Chloe Michelle Belisle9 August 2012 © 2012 Chloe Michelle Belisle
 
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Disclaimer:Guidelines, advice, or suggestions found in this article are not replacements for medical advice or diagnosis and are not intended to be taken as such. Always consult a doctor before embarking on a weightloss diet or if you have health concerns.
Introduction: the Politics of Obesity
Everyday is a challenge, for all of us, but some people have it harder than others. Obesity isa burden both physically and mentally; those who are diagnosed as obese are at an increased risk of coronary artery disease, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain cancers,stroke, sleep apnea, asthma, arthritis, certain brain tumors (pseudotumor cerebri), early pubescence,and even urinary incontinence (Critser 479, 480; American Heart Association). Emotional problemsmay result not only from poor body image and low self-esteem, but from the physical toil of just living.Despite the risks and problems associated with obesity, about thirty percent of all Americans are obeseand a current study has predicted that the rate of obesity will continue to climb until finally leveling off at forty-two percent (Hill et al.). But what headway can we, as individuals, make against a flood of fat?Ideally, to combat obesity, we should not only improve our own health but also fight for the health of others by encouraging the government to take responsibility for the policies and trends it has encouragedthat allow obesity to flourish.One reason obesity has become so prevalent is because of outdated nutritional concerns at the federal level. During World War Two, the government became highly concerned with the health of its younger population when two out of every five mendrafted were rejected because of physical inadequacies commonly caused by childhood malnutrition(Levine 56). To combat this devastating fact, the school lunch program was initiated as a way to feed poor schoolchildren and provide them with adequate calories and vitamins (mainly calcium) (Levine 94). Now, however, when rickets (see image
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) and other diseases related to calcium and vitamin Ddeficiencies are very rare and obesity is increasingly commonplace, the United States Department of Agriculture needs to assess whether the lunches they are providing approximately 31 million schoolchildren with for twelve years of their lives are doing more harm than good. The Physician's CommitteeFor Responsible Medicine (PCRM) evaluated lunch menus from sample schools across the US in 2012and found that several of the most common (and of course, the most sought after) entrees such as beef andcheese nachos, cheese sandwiches, meatloaf, cheeseburgers, and pepperoni pizza had too much saturatedfat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories (PCRM). These findings conflict with the USDA policies whichstate that lunches must adhere to the Dietary Guidelines For Americans (USDA). Adequate caloricconsumption, calcium, and vitamin D cannot be the only health concerns when determining the best diets
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All images found in Wikimedia Commons.
 
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for millions of people. American children are more than potential soldiers, they are people who have livesto live after the age of thirty and cannot do that without proper childhood nutrition.A second possible reason for increased obesity rates is the changed nature of agriculture.Historically, cows were raised on fields and fed the grass that grew on the fields. The farmers that ownedthem drank their milk and occasionally had themselves a nice steak or homemade organ sausage.Beginning in the 1970's with Earl Butz appointment as Secretary of Agriculture by Richard Nixon,farmers were encouraged to plant corn from "fencerow to fencerow" (Dean). The resulting flood of cornand lack of grazing fields (which had been plowed in order to grow more corn) presented farmers with adilemma: how would they get rid of their corn and still make enough money to pay off their debts? Oneway to do this is to find new products to put corn into, specifically the sugary derivative of corn calledhigh fructose corn syrup. This product is found in an incredible range of foods, from the obvious culpritssuch as soda and candy, to less obvious items like bread. But sugar is only one component of corn, theUnion of Concerned Scientistsnotes that cattle are now commonly fed corn instead of grass. Using cornas cattle feed creates further dependency on corn-monoculture and, besides, is actually just not a healthycrop to be feeding cattle to begin with. Notice that the five most unhealthy school lunches all containeither dairy or beef: this is not a coincidence. The relationship between corn, cattle, and humanity iscomplex, but the result of focusing efforts on foods that have high sugar and fat levels is predictable:sugars and fats are now being added to foods and desert like foods, which have historically had a minor role in the average diet, are increasingly abundant.The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionfound thatthe consumption of sweetened beverages like soda and sweetened juices, for example, has increased by135% from the seventies to 2001. Sugary beverages generally have a low satiety level (meaning they donot satisfy hunger well) and very low nutritional value and have been linked to obesity in children as wellas adults (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).Can government regulations and capitalist economies be blamed entirely for the obesityepidemic? Maybe not completely. Physical inactivity has its toll, and even those who eat a range of healthy foods can find themselves tipping the scale more than they would like if they do not exerciseregularly. The CDC found that about sixty percent of the American populace does not participate in any physical activities throughout the day, other than light incidental or occupational exercise. The percentageincreases depending on what racial group one belongs to as well as what gender: non-white women arethe most likely of any group studied to not participate in regular physical activities. Children, particularly poorer children, may not have the time, motivation, or means to exercise in increasing numbers as publicschool PE classes are constantly being defunded (Critser 484). Only one state requires physical educationevery day for all twelve years of public school. Without question, public schools need to prioritize physical education in addition to healthier lunches if there is to be any hope of making a dent in theobesity epidemic.Unfortunately, obesity cannot be resolved by waving the magical asparagus wand, but there arethings that the parents and government bodies can do to ensure that the next generation is a healthier one.Understanding proper child nutrition is one of the biggest ways parents can ensure that their children donot become obese and develop healthy eating patterns, as France has demonstrated with their puericulturemovement (Critser 483). With government help, France has succeeded at keeping the average nationalBMI at a healthy level, despite the common factors that plague industrial nations like sedentaryoccupations and a greater abundance of food. In the US, such a plan seems impractical for many reasons, but mostly because of the USDA’s bias towards dairy. The USDA has recently revised its food pyramidinto a simpler plate, calledMyPlate, showing the approximate proportions of protein, vegetables, fruits,and grains in an effort to make healthy diets more understandable. However, one can plainly see thatdairy has a much higher status than it should, being almost equal in size to the fruit group even thoughmany societies consume absolutely no dairy products and are perfectly healthy. Japan, for instance, hasone of the healthiest diets in the world but lacks dairy completely (Walters). Considering dairy a food

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