So alarming is the prevalence of obesity in America that the condition is now considered a public health crisis. The country is ranked as the 13th most obese globally. Experts predict that half of the nation’s population may be overweight in the next ten years if adequate corrective measures are not adopted. Obesity poses substantial health problems, such as increasing people’s susceptibility to diseases, such as particular types of cancer, stroke, heart diseases, and diabetes, among others. Obesity also increases mortality rates as well as related economic costs. Various factions have attempted to investigate the causes of America’s high obesity rates, and most agree that the food industry is among the most significant culprits.
Analysis of obesity prevalence in the United States reveals the gravity of the problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 36.2 percent of adults in America – approximately 331 million people – are obese. In comparison, Nauru, the most obese country in the world, has a rate of 61 percent, or about 10,824 people. Every state in the country has continuously recorded rates of over 20 percent since 2013 compared to the national target of 15 percent. Research shows varying degrees of obesity depending on race. Specifically, Hispanics and non-Hispanic African American women are the most susceptible. The condition is also more prevalent among middle-aged adults as opposed to young adults or those aged above 60 years (Hales, Fryar, Carroll, Freedman, & Ogden, 2018). Countries such as Nauru, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, and Samoa, among others, which seem to outrank America in the rate of prevalence, only do so due to their comparatively small populations.
Overweight and obesity are among the leading causes of heart disease in the United States. Researchers have noted a rather worrying trend, whereby low- and middle-income households continue to bear most of the burden of obesity. According to Zobel, Hansen, Rossing, and von Scholten (2016), this phenomenon is attributable to the increase in the availability and affordability of ultra-processed and sugary foods and beverages that contain high caloric contents but low nutritional value. The food industry has continually engaged in marketing campaigns that seek to promote fast foods as cheap, convenient, delicious, and filling alternatives via mainstream media. Accordingly, this sector exposes people, especially children, to products that may cause them to be overweight or obese.
Other than the notable increase in the supply of calorie-rich foods, the food industry has also facilitated the consumption of bigger food portions. The rise of processed foods makes it easy for individuals to access products such as wheat and fatty foods. As a result, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) explicitly indicates that Americans consumed about 32 percent more calories from meat in 2018 as compared to their consumption in 1983. The situation was similar for added fats and grains, whose use increased by 60 percent and 45 percent, respectively (Sonntag, Schneider, Mdege, Ali, & Schmidt, 2015). Studies by the World Health Organization also reveal a direct correlation between the rise in fast food sales and the increase in body mass index. These findings indicate the food industry’s role in fuelling obesity in U.S., thereby making Americans more susceptible to heart problems.
Obesity in the U.S. is a significant public health problem. The rising average body mass index in America poses considerable health problems, such as heart disease, increases mortality rates, and strains the economy. The country is ranked the 13th in the world by percentage figures. However, based on absolute values, America has the highest number of obese people in the world. The food industry has played a significant role in fuelling this situation by promoting the marketing of fatty and sugary foods through mainstream media channels, such as radio and television. The sector has also encouraged individuals to consume relatively larger food portions, which increases their calorie intake. Ultimately, more and more Americans continue to be overweight and obese, which makes them increasingly vulnerable to heart problems.
Hales, C. M., Fryar, C. D., Carroll, M. D., Freedman, D. S., & Ogden, C. L. (2018). Trends in obesity and severe obesity prevalence in US youth and adults by sex and age, 2007-2008 to 2015-2016. Jama, 319(16), 1723-1725.
Sonntag, D., Schneider, S., Mdege, N., Ali, S., & Schmidt, B. (2015). Beyond food promotion: A systematic review on the influence of the food industry on obesity-related dietary behaviour among children. Nutrients, 7(10), 8565-8576.
Zobel, E. H., Hansen, T. W., Rossing, P., & von Scholten, B. J. (2016). Global changes in food supply and the obesity epidemic. Current Obesity Reports, 5(4), 449-455.