Can obesity really be as deadly as smoking?

For years doctors have been warning patients about the dangers of smoking. But what about being overweight? Can it be really as bad as lighting up? Will a few extra pounds really have a dramatic impact on your health?

The answer may surprise you. New studies suggest that obesity actually leads to more doctor visits than smoking.

And while smoking has been on the decline, obesity rates continue to rise. Roughly one-quarter to one-third of Americans and Canadians are obese while two-thirds are overweight. An estimated one-third of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are also overweight.

But it gets even more serious. According to the CDC, obesity falls closely behind smoking in annual premature deaths: 324,000 to smoking’s 443,000.

And in terms of money spent, obesity actually exceeds smoking in yearly medical care costs with 147 billion spent on the former and 97 billion on the latter.

How did we get here?

Simply put Americans exercise less and eat more of the wrong kinds of food than they did in the past. In fact, the Medical News Today reported that 3 out of 10 adults are not doing the recommended weekly exercise such as walking 30 minutes 5 times a week or running 20 minutes 3 times a week.

Children in particular spend a record amount of time in front of the T.V. and computer. Long gone are the days when kids would spend hours playing outside. As much as 80% of kids between the ages of 13-15 don’t even get the recommended hour of daily exercise.

And adults do not fare much better. A sedentary lifestyle has become the norm rather than the exception.

In terms of what we eat, processed and prepared foods, loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup make up the majority of the modern American diet. A staggering 90% of the money Americans spend on food is used in restaurants or in purchasing processed foods.

A diet rich in heavily processed, nutritionally-deplete food wreaks havoc on our bodies. To reverse the tide, we need to rethink how we approach our food. Like anti-smoking campaigns which reveal the true dangers of smoking, we need to make people aware of how their food choices affect their health.

Basic steps you can take to regain your health include:

  1. Avoid Processed Foods: Prepackaged foods and beverages are loaded with everything you need to avoid like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and empty carbohydrates. Buying whole foods and preparing your own meals ensures your body’s getting properly nourished with quality ingredients.
  2. Eat More Raw Foods: Raw fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts are full of vitamins and fiber and easy on your digestive system.
  3. Replace Sugars and Carbs with Healthy Fats and Omega-3’s: Although fats generally have a higher caloric content than sugar, they are rich in nutrients and essential to proper body function.
  4. Exercise. Not only does exercise keep your weight down, it keeps your spirits high and reduces stress. Limiting T.V. and computer time for children is particularly important in keeping them fit.

Anti-smoking campaigns have been really effective in exposing the dangers associated with cigarettes, so should a similar approach be used for unhealthy lifestyle choices?

What do you think? Would an anti-junk food approach be useful?

REFERENCES
(1) www.fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/08/03/obesity-surpasses-smoking.aspx
(2) www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes/index.html
(3) www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/247926.php
(4) www.fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/08/03/obesity-surpasses-smoking.aspx