Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The obesity epidemic

The Trust for America’s Health just released a report on obesity in America. It said we’re fat and getting fatter: adult obesity rates rose in 31 states last year.

Jim Marks, a spokesperson for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which sponsored the study, said that obesity costs $117 billion per year in preventable health care expenditures. Americans seem to agree: the report said 85% of Americans believe that obesity is an epidemic.

Lots of organizations release reports. What caught my interest in this one is that the reporting organization’s Secretary is Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Senior Scientist at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and an expert in public health and bioterrorism. An expert in nuclear threats and bioterrorism with the last name of Hamburg is focusing on obesity?

The real numbers behind this story is how much money we’d save if everyone ate less.

According to my calculations based on current eating habits and food prices, Americans would save $430 billion/year by reducing 1,000 calories from their daily diet. What’s a thousand calories? Try four slices of toast with butter, or two chocolate bars, or a Big Mac and fries.

Combine the food savings with the preventable health care savings – forget about all the fuel we’d save in cars and airplanes not carrying around all that extra weight and the $1.8 billion we spend on diet books – and we’re looking at a 4% reduction in our GDP.

Fat economy indeed.

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