8 Surprising Things That May Be Making Americans Fat
A third of the U.S. population is now overweight, making it just a matter of time before normal-size people are actually in the minority. Americans have so ballooned in size, government safety regulators worry that airline seats and belts won't restrain today's men who average 194 pounds and women who average 165 pounds, in a crash.
Not everyone agrees that obesity is always a health problem. You can be overweight and still have normal blood pressure, blood sugar, HDL cholesterol and other metabolic markers if you exercise, say some, pointing to U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, who hiked the Grand Canyon in 2010 despite her extra poundage.
But others say fitness and exercise will not reverse the health effects of obesity. The British medical journal The Lancet recently reported that rising obesity in the U.K. will cause an extra half a million cases of heart disease, 700,000 cases of diabetes and 130,000 of cancer by 2030. And the overweight and obese are 80 percent more likely to develop dementia writes Kerry Trueman on AlterNet.
And there are other obesity "negatives." The obese are less likely to be employed, earn less than people of normal weight and "have more days of absence from work, a lower productivity on the job and a greater access to disability benefits," reports the Paris-based policy group Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Obesity raises Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance costs and affects national security, writes David Gratzer on KevinMD.com, "since thousands of recruits are turned away from military service because of failed physicals and poor overall health." It also shortens "the lifespan of millions of decent Americans who deserve better," he writes.
Yet eating too much and exercising too little, considered the root of obesity, are not the only probable culprits. Here are some other factors that are often overlooked.
1. Depression and Depression Drugs
Classic depression is characterized by a decrease in appetite, weight loss and general despondency. But in 1994, "atypical depression" debuted, a subtype of depression characterized by an increase in appetite and weight gain (as well as oversensitivity to rejection by others). Unfortunately, both types of depression are often treated with popular antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro and Paxil and antipsychotics like Seroquel, Zyprexa and Risperdal, all of which can pack on the pounds.
To keep the weight gain from affecting Pharma sales, the pro-pill site, WebMD, tells patients that keeping the pounds off is their responsibility since only "healthy eating and exercise help control your weight gain." But it also counsels if the pill weight gain is "so strong that it simply can't be offset by any amount of calorie restricting or even exercise," the psychoactive medication "to help overcome your depression is far more important." To whom?
2. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners, found in soft drinks, many diet foods and an astounding number of children's cereals for unclear reasons, may do more harm than good. While marketed and perceived as helping people avoid calories, they can have two insidious side effects: because they are sweet they encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence just like salty foods train people to crave salt, says research in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
And, because sweetness is "decoupled from caloric content," they fail to satisfy the sweets reward system and actually further fuel "food-seeking behavior," wrote the researchers. See: giving hungry dog rubber bone. One artificial sweetener, Splenda, also has molecular similarities to endocrine disrupter pesticides, say food safety advocates.