Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If we were to collectively exercise 5% more and eat 5% less we would see immediate results as a nation. That’s it.

Not Heard on the Campaign Trail: Cutting the Fat
(and that means you)

September 26, 2012

by Graham Gillette
(who can be reached at

Des Moines Register

Last week I wrote about how candidates ignore criminal justice reform – we are creating a criminal class in this country with costly and ineffective prison-centric policies. To a point, I understand why politicians steer clear of criminal justice reform. The problem is not foremost in most Americans’ minds and the steps to correct the problem are not always clear-cut.

This week I want to address another issue. The reasons to focus on this one are crystal clear. It looms in front of us every day, costs our nation hundreds of billions of dollars and directly contributes to the killing of Americans. Yet, not one candidate talks about this national security crisis, even though it is one of the most costly and potentially deadly threats. They have opted to leave the topic to a person not on the ballot, Michelle Obama.

The fat issue, the American obesity epidemic

Before you dive into that plate of chili cheese fries with a dismissive ‘this has nothing to do with me’ wave of your napkin, indulge me.

If we put our heads together on slowing, if not solving the obesity problem, we could save hundreds of billions of dollars a year (yep, billions, with a ‘b’) and save hundreds of thousands of lives. Unlike other issues of this magnitude, we can do something about it without sending soldiers into harm’s way, raising taxes or impinging on a single person’s rights.

You’re going to want to throw your weight behind this initiative, pardon the pun.

The Data

The Trust for America’s Health issued a report this week showing that if obesity rates continue on their current trajectories, by 2030, 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 percent, 39 states could have rates above 50 percent, and all 50 states could have rates above 44 percent. This means the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension and arthritis could increase 10 times between 2010 and 2020—and double again by 2030.

America’s wallet will take an (g)astronomical hit because of this.

By 2030, medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion per year in the United States, and the loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580 billion annually by 2030. While the Trust admits the medical cost of adult obesity in the United States is difficult to calculate, they estimate we already spend $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year.

Iowa should fair somewhat better than the rest of the country – Mississippians face a fat induced killing rate of genocidal proportions. The numbers are sobering. If the average Iowan’s body mass index (BMI) were lowered by just 5 percent, Iowa could save 7.1 percent in health care costs, which would equate to savings of $ 5,702,000,000 by 2030.

The number of Iowans who could be spared from developing new cases of major obesity-related diseases includes:

* 77,783 people could be spared from type 2 diabetes

* 67,065 from coronary heart disease and stroke

* 60,940 from hypertension

* 34,635 from arthritis

* 5,849 from obesity-related cancer

The Solution

It starts with us.

It is time to get off the couch, exercise a little and to begin to make an effort to stop shoving the calories down our gullets. It really isn’t hard. You don’t have to join a gym, buy a pill, or begin some strict diet found in the latest best-selling diet book. Take a few small steps. Walk around the neighborhood every other day. Put down the fork. Eat less.

If we were to collectively exercise 5% more and eat 5% less we would see immediate results as a nation. That’s it.

It is a national disgrace the candidates fail to champion this cause. They could begin a national movement guaranteed to brighten our future. Fighting the fat will make us healthier, stronger and better able to face our country’s challenges. We could save an obscene amount of money that is destined to be flushed down the toilet in the form of rising health care costs. Fighting the war on fat is our patriotic duty.

Obesity should be front and center in this season’s political debate.