Obesity in the U.S. - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Healthwatch - 05/16/03

Obesity in the U.S.

For many years experts have raised a red flag. The U.S. is becoming a fat nation. In our daily life, junk food, fat and fast food are everywhere. They're at work, at home, at the malls, and at the ballpark.

The consequence: an estimated 64% of Americans today are either overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poor nutrition and physical inactivity account for some 300,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year due to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses, and obesity costs the nation $117,000,000,000 a year.

So what to do about this huge problem? The strategy so far has been to tell people that being overweight is unhealthy and so they should change their diet and exercise more. But many argue that hasn't worked terribly well. After all, despite all this advice, Americans are fatter than ever.

So now, some call for a "war on obesity," with more dramatic actions that would give clear incentives for people to stop eating so much. One proposition on the table, the creation of a fat-tax, adding a small tax on high calorie food such as sugary sodas, candies and snack food to finance programs to improve diet and activity.

But taxing junk food raises questions. For example, should all of us pay more to indulge ourselves just because some can't control themselves? And is obesity just an individual problem or is it a societal one? A question of self-discipline or of environment?

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