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Eboni Watters

Math 1030
Final Project

Obesity in America and Fast Food

It is no shock living in America that obesity rates are on the rise, and there is really no
sign of the growth rate slowing down anytime soon. There are multiple reasons causing obesity
such as genes, family history, injuries, medications, unhealthy eating habits, and stress. Adults
and youth are both suffering from the obesity epidemic and it tends to be a vicious cycle.
Childhood obesity has more then doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past
thirty years. In 1980 the obesity rate in children aged 6-11 was 7% and jumped to nearly 18% in
2013. For adolescents 12-19 years of age the obesity rate went from 5% to almost 21% in the
same time period (Ogden). Obesity is caused when the caloric output levels are less than what is
being consumed. So eating an unhealthy diet, and playing video games or watching TV for
hours every night is piling on the pounds. Cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and high
blood pressure are just a few of the diseases overweight children and adolescents run the risk of
suffering from in the future. Almost 70% of obese youth have at least one cardiovascular risk
factor throughout their lifetime (Freedman). Not only are hearts at risks bones, joints, sleep
quality, and self-esteem can all be affected (Dietz). About 248,000 deaths per year are caused by
the obesity epidemic, which is the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the United
States closely following tobacco use (Clinical Guidelines).
Obesity doesnt only cause devastating physical problems it is also a costly one. Illnesses
related to obesity are about $190.2 billion annually, that is nearly 21% of the United States
medical spending (Cawley). Of the $190.2 billion spent childhood obesity is responsible for
nearly $14 billion of the total cost. These dollar amounts are only going to increase, because the
obese children today are most likely going to become tomorrows obese adults (Wang). With the
growing complications caused by obesity disability and unemployment benefits costs are also
going to rise (Cawley).
Though most of the listed aliments above related to obesity are unavoidable such as
genetics and family history, and have to be dealt with as they come there is one guilty pleasure
most Americans partake in every day that is also causing obesityfast food. Fast food is
convenient, delicious, and has become part of Americans lifestyle. Partnering fast food and
genetics together is a deadly combination. Fast foods history, popularity, and portions sizes have
all also changed dramatically over the years making it more accessible to more people.
Taverns and restaurants have been around way before fast food was ever invented. They
fed travelers who ha a reason to be away from home. It was more a necessity then it was for fun.
White Castle, which opened in 1921 in Kansas, was the first fast food restaurant that changed the
face of the burger. Before people thought the hamburger was left over slaughterhouse remains
and was thought of as low quality food. White Castle wanted to change the hamburgers bad
reputation and built the first restaurant where the customers could see their food being made in
front of them. Soon after McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, and Carls Junior opened
their doors. Today McDonalds is the biggest fast food chain restaurant. Today, more than
160,000 fast- food restaurants feed more than 50 million Americans each and every day,
generating sales of more than $163.5 billion dollars annually (Wilson).
The total cost of food has fallen and is also at higher demand resulting in lower quality
food being made for cheap. With the prices of healthy food going up, fast unhealthy over
processed food is just easier and more convenient to locate and eat. Not only is the convenience
and bad quality of fast food played a role in obesity portion sizes also are a big contributor. The
portion sizes have changed dramatically over the past twenty years. Hamburgers have expanded
by 23%; a plate of Mexican food is 27% bigger; soft drinks have increased in size by 52%.
Snacks, whether they are potato chips, pretzels or crackers, are also 60% larger. These portions
have changed this much just in the last ten years. Americans have done this to themselves. We
want more food for our dollar whether it is healthy or not. We have also adopted the clean
plate mentality. Children are constantly being told to finish what is on their plate from a young
age (McKenzie).
At Penn State University's College of Health and Human Development, that theory was
put to the test. Volunteers were given a different amount of macaroni and cheese each day for
lunch. Researchers then watched to see if larger portions resulted in greater consumption.
Barbara Rolls said, "It didn't matter if it was men or women, dieters or non-dieters, people who
were overweight or not, people who habitually clean their plates or not, everyone responded to
the increased portion size by eating more. On average, the volunteers ate 30 percent more from a
five-cup portion of macaroni and cheese than from a serving one-half its size, without reporting
feeling fuller after eating. Perhaps even more troubling, most of the volunteers never even
noticed when the portions were getting larger (McKenzie).
America as a nation needs to gain control over the nations fast food addiction to able to
have a healthier America tomorrow. Education about the quality and dangers of cheap food
needs to be taught at an early age to avoid obesity in childhood as well as adulthood. If changes
are not made soon the popularity of fast food is only going to increase along with Americans
waistbands, continuing to take lives as well.
We as Americans can live in denial all we want. We can blame it on genetics, lack of
time, or our stress, which all can play a role but the fact is we are doing this to ourselves. The
research is out there proving how important eating healthy actually is, and the truth is its not a
new concept. No its not easy and it takes work, but isnt your life and quality of life worth it?
More important isnt the future generations lives worth it? The education should start with the
American youth. Parents and schools have the biggest influence on how a childs eating habits
are starting to develop, and how they will be later on in their lives. Michelle Obama realized this
and took action.
Michelle Obama took the facts of how one in three children in America are obese, and
knew that if something didnt change one third of he children born in 2000 or later would most
likely suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. With almost 32 million children
participating in the school lunch program and almost 12 million in the breakfast program,
healthy food is a must. That is why the Lets Move program was launched, combining
comprehensive strategies with common sense, Lets Move! is about putting children on the path
to a healthy future during their earliest months and years. Giving parents helpful information and
fostering environments that support healthy choices. Providing healthier foods in our schools.
Ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food. And, helping children become
more physically active-Michelle Obama (Lets Move)."
After learning all the numbers and really seeing how many people are dying from obesity
each year has really opened my eyes. I am of guilty of eating fast food, but after this I have lost
my appetite for it. This has inspired me to want to learn correct portion sizes, and what food my
body really needs to thrive. Learning to eat healthy and learning correct portion sizes is not
going to be an over night success. It will take time and patience, but I know in the end living a
healthier, happier, and longer life will be worth it.









































References:

Cawley J, Meyerhoefer C. The medical care costs of obesity: an instrumental variables approach.
Journal of Health Economics. 31(1):219-230. 2012.

Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in
adults. Executive summary. National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute, June 1998.

Dietz WH. Overweight in childhood and adolescence. New England Journal of Medicine
2004;350:855-857

Freedman DS, Zuguo M, Srinivasan SR, Berenson GS, Dietz WH. Cardiovascular risk factors
and excess adiposity among overweight children and adolescents: the Bogalusa Heart Study.
Journal of Pediatrics 2007;150(1):1217.

Let's Move. America's Move to Raise A Healthier Generation of Kids. Retrieved April 25, 2014,
from http://www.letsmove.gov/about

Mckenzie, J. (2003, January 21). Food Portion Sizes Have Grown -- A Lot. ABC News.
Retrieved , from http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=129685

Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the
United States, 2011-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association 2014;311(8):806-814.

Wang LY, Chyen D, Lee S, et al. "The Association Between Body Mass Index in Adolescence
and Obesity in Adulthood." Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(5): 512518, 2008.

Wilson, Tracy V.. "How Fast Food Works" 22 August 2006. HowStuffWorks.com.
<http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/fast-food.htm> 22 April
2014.