The Staggering Cost of the World's Widening Waistline

By Chuck Norris

April 8, 2016 6 min read

It's time we stopped beating the drum about the perils of obesity.

According to a new international study, we need to put the drum aside and start sounding a stage three alarm bell — and loudly.

According to a new study published in The Lancet medical journal, the obesity epidemic has gone global and, if that's not bad enough, it appears to be much worse than most experts thought. Seems we have transitioned from a world, not all that long ago, in which the prevalence of people being underweight was more than double that of those being obese, to a world where obesity reigns. In just four decades, global obesity has more than tripled among men and doubled among women. According to the study, more men were obese than underweight in 136 countries, and more women were obese than underweight in 165 countries. If current trends continue, 18 percent of men and 21 percent of women around the world will be obese by 2025.

High-income English-speaking countries, where we have the means to address the problem, now account for more than a quarter of the world's severely obese people. In this area, we are the leader. More than one in four severely obese men and one in five severely obese women live in the USA. By 2025, the study estimates, 43 percent of women and 45 percent of men in the United States will be obese; as to our ability to stop the rise? Zero chance says the study.

Such sobering facts make you realize the litany of things that conspire to prevent meaningful change, even in areas where change is desperately needed. Take the rising cost of natural and low processed food, for example. Grocery prices are projected to continue to rise, as they have each year since 1990. As the world population continues to grow, people are becoming more affluent and, in turn, consuming more meat. Grains are going to feed the animals that provide that meat. More grassland is needed for all that livestock. There's mounting concern that crop yields may soon begin to significantly suffer, meaning less availability of fresh produce and upward spiraling costs. Of course, we could reverse the trend by cutting down on the consumption of meat. But, I'm guessing, fat chance of that happening any time soon.

Further straining a family's budget for buying fresh food is the ridiculous cost associated with prescription medication. About 60 percent of U.S. adults take prescription medications, according to a study from Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. As so many families know, retail prices for brand-name drugs are soaring out of control. At the same time, a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that patient co-pays are rising faster than incomes. It's not just the public who are getting tired of rising drug prices, doctors are now joining the chorus. The American College of Physicians recently published a position paper calling for the government and industry to take steps to rein in spiraling costs. The U.S. is the only country in the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an organization which includes most advanced economies, that doesn't have any government regulation of drug prices.

As mentioned last week, being seriously overweight or obese is linked to potentially life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, heart disease and cancer. People with diabetes are at particularly high risk of Alzheimer's disease.

As outlined in a recent report by the Alzheimer's Association, first, Alzheimer's takes a person's memory. Then it takes their family's money.

"What we found was really startling," says Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the organization. "The cost of paying for care was putting people in a situation where they had to make really difficult choices around basic necessities — things like food, medical care, transportation."

The financial burden friends and families bear when they care for someone with Alzheimer's is costing, on average, more than $5,000 a year of their own money to pay for the expenses of their loved one. To make ends meet, about 13 percent in the study had to raise money by selling personal belongings, like the family car. Nearly half of the care contributors surveyed had to dip into their savings or retirement funds.

"It's really a double whammy," says Kallmyer. "People are sometimes not able to work as much or not able to work at all in order to provide care, and then they're paying money out of pocket on top of that."

The report also revealed that about two-thirds of Americans believe Medicare will help cover nursing home costs. In truth, it won't.

Before any more people get sick from obesity, let's consider the far-reaching toll it is already taking on all of us; because it's mounting.

Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Alan Levine

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