By the year 2022, a recent study predicts that an estimated 113 million American citizens will be classified as “obese” and more than 81 million as “overweight.” With the US taking the lead, the study also revealed that the eight other most obese developed countries, including Brazil, can expect their total rise in obesity to carry them from 167 million in 2012 to over 213 million by 2022.
With Brazil being the second most obese on the list after the US, the other countries involved in the study were Canada, Japan, the U.K., Italy, Spain, and France. Brazil’s obese citizens are expected to goal 64 million, almost triple where it stands today.
Today, the CDC reports that “more than one-third of Americans are obese,” classified partly by their Body Mass Index, which is a calculation involving a person’s height and weight that was actually proven an ineffective method of assessing a person’s health in a prior study simply because it doesn’t taken into account things such as muscle mass, gender, and age. However, the expected obesity rates in this most recent study are not based solely on BMI rates, but also on body fat percentages, a much more accurate tool for assessing body fat levels.
To classify as “overweight,” a person needs a BMI of 25 or higher, but 29.5 or higher will classify as “obese.” A body fat percentage of 32 or higher in women and 25 or higher in men is considered obese.
Meanwhile, aside from obvious health concerns and the overall wellness of the population, the other damaging effect of obesity is the cost it presents the country’s government in healthcare. The CDC reports that the “estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.”
With a rise in obesity, these numbers will only continue to climb and the country’s debt surrounding healthcare will surely grow worse.
The greatest health concerns associated with obesity are heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Each year, over 600,000 US citizens die due to heart disease–the leading cause of death for both males and females. The most common type of heart disease is “coronary” heart disease, which takes an estimated 385,000 lives each year, and costs the United States over $108 billion annually.
Today, almost 26 million US citizens are estimated to have diabetes, about 7 million of which have yet to be diagnosed.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot produce enough insulin or is not able to sufficiently use the insulin its producing in order to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Higher levels of body fat are known to result in higher levels of insulin resistance, thus making it more challenging for the body to produce enough or use enough insulin to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. A fasting blood glucose level under 100 mg/dL is considered healthy, while anything higher prior to a meal can indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes. Often confused by mainstream media, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body has attacked itself and its own ability to produce insulin, and has no association with weight or obesity.
When left untreated by oral medications, insulin, diet, and exercise, complications of type 2 diabetes are what can become both costly and life-threatening. With chronically elevated blood glucose levels before and after a meal, crucial organs and nerve-endings are irritated and gradually impaired. The eyes, fingers, toes, and kidneys are most commonly impacted by higher levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Overtime, the result can mean peripheral neuropathy, which is damage to the nerve-endings in fingers and toes as well as infections, which left untreated can eventually lead to the need for amputation.
Nephropathy, which is the result of high blood sugar levels requiring the kidneys to work overtime in an effort to process the excess glucose, can eventually lead to kidney failure and the need for a kidney transplant. And lastly, retinopathy, the result of excess glucose irritating the nerve-endings of the retinas, when left untreated can lead to gradual loss of sight and eventual blindness.
However, this list of complications is most likely only a reality for those with type 2 diabetes who struggle to follow treatment protocol or have yet to see a doctor and receive a proper diagnosis. Through a combination of oral medications, insulin injections, changes in diet and exercise, many people with type 2 diabetes go on to live profoundly successful lives while maintaining improved overall blood glucose numbers.
How will the country respond to the ever-growing epidemic and expected 113 obese Americans expected increase in 2022? While movements for improved food in grocery stores and fewer genetically modified produce continue to evolve, researchers still have many unanswered questions.
Written by Ginger Vieira