The foods we eat every day contribute to our well-being. Foods provide us with the nutrients we need for healthy bodies and the calories we need for energy. If we take in more calories than we burn, the extra food turns to fat and is stored in our bodies. If we overeat regularly, we gain weight, and if we continue to gain weight, we may become obese.
Obesity results from the accumulation of excess fat on the body. Obesity is considered a chronic (long-term) disease, like high blood pressure or diabetes. It has many serious long-term consequences for your health, and it is a leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States (with tobacco use and high blood pressure). Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30. The BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height. See the Body Mass Index Calculator.
Obesity is an epidemic in the United States and in other developed countries. More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, including at least one in five children. Nearly one-third are obese. Obesity is on the rise in our society because food is abundant and most of us are employed in positions that require little to no physical activity. On the bright side, recent data suggest that childhood obesity, while still high, may no longer be on the rise.
Each year, Americans spend billions of dollars on dieting, diet foods, diet books, diet pills, and the like. Another $75 billion is spent on treating the diseases associated with obesity. Furthermore, businesses suffer an estimated $20 billion loss in productivity each year from absence due to illness caused by obesity.
Gayle M. Galletta, MD, FACEP
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