Obesity Weekly

A weekly update about some aspect of Obesity. Published Monday mornings

Government initiatives to combat obesity.

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The US government has an initiative “OBESITY: Halting the Epidemic by Making Health Easier” (1) Decreasing weight and increasing fitness are excellent goals and would increase longevity and decrease comorbidities associated with obesity, such as discussed a couple weeks ago.  However, has the US government accepted the same premise that helped get us into the situation in the first place?  That getting fitter will happen if its easier?

Let’s go back a few thousand years.  Effectively storing excess energy provided a survival advantage. You couldn’t run down to the Alberston’s, or Piggly Wiggly, or Super Wal-mart and pick up whatever you were craving.  If you wanted something, you had to go and get it, either in your own garden,  finding it in the wild, or going and killing your dinner.  I guess, sometimes dinner would fight back. (Now there’s an exercise, getting chased out of the store by a angry package of spare ribs)  Then you had to prepare it, which took much more effort and time than it does today.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go back to those times, life expectancies in the 40’s, half the women dead during or because of childbirth, half the kids dead from childhood diseases, half the men dead from fighting each other, and hand-to-mouth survival for the vast remainder of the population.  The point is that we are not accustomed to living in an environment with readily available excess calories.  Let’s keep the extended longevity, the decreased fatality rates, the better hygiene and the effective vaccination programs for communicable childhood diseases.  Let’s face it, there has been no selective pressure for people to successfully exist in an environment with excess, readily available calories.  For almost all of our existence, obtaining calories has not been easy, now it is.  So burning excess calories is not going to be easy either.  We are hardwired to eat and to not burn excess calories.  Burning excess calories has not been a good survival strategy up until this point.  Gathering enough calories was hard enough, there was no reason to make it harder by running 5 or 10 miles or going to the gym. So we face a situation where we are not biologically equipped to know how to respond.  If we had a fullness switch we could adjust to suit each situation, or the ability to turn on the fat burning machinery when we overate, it would be easy.

The government initiatives are focused on making fitness opportunities more accessible.  Making trails around the communities.  Working with state governments; about half of the states are currently working with the CDC, holding meetings and doing research.  All of these are good efforts and there is much basic biologic information that we do not currently have.  For some reason, each individuals body will fight to maintain a certain weight, called a set point.  If we could consciously turn down the set point 10,15 or 20 pounds, then achieving that weight would be easy.  No one really understands how that set point works. We don’t all just consume all the available calories all the time, we do stop.  We will explore the basic biology behind hunger at a later date.  But we do know that our weights don’t vary all that much month to month. Therefore, getting a grasp on our weight problem, is never going to be easy, no matter what government initiatives are put in place. Just because it is not going to be easy, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. Who ever thought that gaining something valuable was going to be easy?

1.  http://www.cdc.gov/NCCdphp/publications/AAG/obesity.htm


Written by ecable

March 30, 2009 at 7:00 am

Posted in Health

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