The True Size of the American Obesity Epidemic

To understand the true magnitude of the American obesity epidemic, we first need to understand what it really means to be overweight. Doctors and nutritionists classify people as either underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese. These different classifications are determined by body mass index (BMI), or a measure of body fat based on your height and weight.

To get a basic idea, this chart from the CDC approximates what that means for someone who is 5’9” tall.

Height Weight Range BMI Considered
Source: CDC      
5′ 9″ 124 lbs or less Below 18.5 Underweight
  125 lbs to 168 lbs 18.5 to 24.9 Healthy weight
  169 lbs to 202 lbs 25.0 to 29.9 Overweight
  203 lbs or more 30 or higher Obese

As for what is driving America’s chronic weight problem, there are no definite answers. Scientific studies often reach conflicting conclusions. Many theories are out there, but the preponderance of evidence points to the two causes most people already suspect: too much food and too little exercise.

Bigger portions, confusing “diet” for “nutrition,” and lack of exercise are a deadly combination. Today, each American puts away an average of 195lbs of meat every year, compared to just 138lbs in the 1950’s. Consumption of added fats also shot up by around two thirds over the same period, and grain consumption rose 45% since 1970.

Research published by the World Health Organization found that a rise in fast food sales correlated to a rise in body mass index, and Americans are notorious for their fast-food consumption. It is not just how much we eat, but what we eat.

The role of diet in the obesity epidemic is obviously major, but it’s also complex. Consumers are sent mixed messages when it comes to what to eat and how much. Larger portions, processed packaged food, and drive-thru meals are branded as almost classically American — fast, cheap, filling, and delicious, but yet we spend billions of dollars annually on weight loss schemes.

Lack of exercise is also a major culprit in the obesity epidemic. A far greater majority of us are sitting throughout our workday. According to one study, only 20% of today’s jobs require at least moderate physical activity, as opposed to 50% of jobs in 1960. Other research suggests Americans burn 120 to 140 fewer calories a day than they did 50 years ago. Add this to the higher number of calories we are packing in, and we get a perfect recipe for weight gain.

A number of other factors are thought to play a role in the obesity epidemic, such as the in- utero effects of smoking and excessive weight gain in pregnant mothers. Poor sleep, stress, and lower rates of breastfeeding are also thought to contribute to a child’s long-term obesity risk. Of course, these factors are not explicit or solitary causes of obesity, but they are reliable indicators of the kinds of systemic problems contributing to this crisis.

In the end, though, we can’t lose sight of the big picture. Over the past years, diet fads have come and gone, with people rushing to blame red meat, dairy, wheat, fat, sugar, etc. for making them fat, but in reality, the problem is much simpler. Genetics and age do strongly influence metabolism, but as the CDC points out, weight gain and loss is primarily a formula of total calories consumed versus total calories used.

If you are looking for answers to debilitating obesity and the health issues that often accompany the extra weight, contact VIP Surg at (702) 487-6006. We can help you find the right treatment for your unique situation.

A pair of female feet on a bathroom scale

Most Common Surgical Treatments for Clinically Severe Obesity

The obesity epidemic continues to grow in our country, and with obesity comes a whole host of additional health risks, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and stroke. Those looking to reduce these obesity-related health risks are turning to bariatric or medical weight-loss surgeries like gastric bypass.

With weight-loss surgery, your surgeon makes changes to your stomach or small intestine, or both. The procedure resolves diabetes 80 percent of the time, and patients lose an average of 70 percent of extra weight. However, gastric bypass isn’t the only choice. Learn about your options:

Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Band – The surgeon puts a small band around the top of your stomach. The band has a small balloon inside it that controls how tight or loose the band is. The band limits how much food can go into your stomach. This surgery is done using a laparoscope. Advantages include:

  • Minimally invasive with small incisions
  • Short hospital stay
  • Adjustable without additional surgery
  • Can support pregnancy
  • Removable at any time

Laparoscopic Gastric Sleeve – This surgery removes most of the stomach and leaves only a narrow section of the upper part of the stomach, called a gastric sleeve. The surgery may also curb the hunger hormone ghrelin, so you eat less. Advantages include:

  • No cutting, bypassing, or stapling of the intestine
  • Little concern about vitamin and calcium absorption
  • No adjustments or artificial devices put into place
  • Most foods are possible

Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery – The surgeon leaves only a very small part of the stomach (called the pouch). That pouch can’t hold a lot of food, so you eat less. The food you eat bypasses the rest of the stomach, going straight from the pouch to your small intestine. This surgery can often be done through several small incisions using a camera to see inside (laparoscope). Doctors can also perform a mini-gastric bypass, which is a similar procedure also done through a laparoscope. Advantages include:

  • Tiny incisions, resulting is less scarring and easier healing
  • Excellent cosmetic result
  • Little pain
  • Few wound complications
  • Fast recovery
  • Short hospital stay
  • Resuming physical activity soon
  • Little risk of hernia formation

Duodenal Switch- This is complicated surgery that removes most of the stomach and uses a gastric sleeve to bypass most of your small intestine. It limits how much you can eat. It also means your body doesn’t get as much of a chance to absorb nutrients from your food, which could mean you don’t get enough of the vitamins and minerals you need. Advantages include:

  • Results in greater weight loss than other methods, i.e. 60 – 70% percent excess weight loss or greater, at 5 year follow up
  • Allows patients to eventually eat near normal meals
  • Reduces the absorption of fat by 70 percent or more
  • Causes favorable changes in gut hormones to reduce appetite and improve satiety
  • Is the most effective against diabetes compared to other methods

If you’re considering bariatric surgery, schedule an appointment with Dr. Shawn Tsuda. He can help you decide which, if any, of these treatments is right for your unique situation.Fat man running