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Fat and Weight Loss


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Mary is a 35-year-old mother of two daughters. Although she has always struggled with weight, her weight has hit an all-time high in the past few months. A couple of years ago, she injured her back, which left her unable to work. It was after her injury that she really started to gain weight, reaching more than 350 pounds. She considered back surgery but the doctor told her the risks were too great due to her weight-related health issues. Mary looked into getting her stomach stapled, hoping that she would lose enough weight to allow her to have the back surgery. However, her insurance would not pay for the surgery. At her weight and with her back problems, Mary feels like she cannot exercise, creating a vicious cycle of weight gain and inactivity. Mary is just one of the 9 million Americans who are morbidly obese. If Mary continues to be morbidly obese she will likely suffer dozens of ailments from arthritis to asthma, and have her life shortened by 20 years. Weight-loss drugs, however, are often covered by insurance; if Mary tries them and is able to reduce her weight by 10 percent, she might become a better candidate for the back surgery she needs.

Childhood Obesity The rise in childhood obesity is believed to be due to increases in poor nutrition and inactivity. Television, computers, and other electronics are more popular with children today but generally offer no physical exercise. National guidelines recommend 150 minutes of physical activity per week for elementary school–age children and 225 minutes per week for older children and teens. In one survey completed by the Centers for Disease Control, 27.8 percent of high school girls and 43.8 percent of high school boys reported at least 60 minutes of exercise at least five times per week. High school boys are more likely than girls to be active because they are more likely to participate in sports. According to researchers at the University of South Carolina, one-third of teens are unfit, based on a study of more than 3,000 teens from 1999 to 2002. The definition of “unfit” was determined by a treadmill test where the teens’ heart rates were monitored. The researchers found that overweight teens are much more likely to fail the fitness test than normal-weight teens and that boys are slightly more likely to meet the fitness standard than girls. The findings were troubling to medical professionals because it is well accepted that unfit teens are much more likely to be unfit adults. Fast food and vending machines in schools also contribute to childhood obesity. For many children, fast food is a weekly or even daily part of their diets. Particularly disturbing is the quantity of sugar children consume today. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in the early 1800s, the average person consumed approximately 12 pounds of sugar annually. By the 1970s, the annual consumption of sugar jumped to 137 pounds, a figure that has not changed much over the years despite the introduction of many artificial sweeteners. The source of much of this sugar is in processed foods and sweetened drinks. Processed foods are foods made with processed white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and grains such as white flour, in which the plant fiber—and most of the nutrition—has been removed. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener created from corn syrup. Most “convenience” foods are processed. The danger with processed foods is that without fiber to slow the absorption of food, the glucose (sugar) from the broken-down food floods the bloodstream, causing the body to produce insulin to handle this excess sugar. The insulin captures the sugar, which may leave the person feeling


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