Fat City


Americans Getting Taller, Much Heavier

I guess I don't so much mind being old, as I mind being fat and old.

- Benjamin Franklin

by Laura Meckler

Washington - Better nutrition has helped Americans grow a little taller.  But it's been too much of a good thing: the nation is also a whole lot fatter.  Adults are roughly an inch taller than they were in the early 1960s, on average, and nearly 25 pounds heavier, the government has reported.  The nation's expanding waistline has been well documented, though the recent report is the first to quantify it based on how many pounds the average person is carrying.  The reasons are no surprise: more fast food, more television and less walking around the neighbourhood, to name a few.  Earlier this year, researchers reported that obesity fuelled by poor diet and lack of activity threatens to overtake tobacco use as the leading preventable cause of death.

In 1960 - 1962, the average man weighed 166.3 pounds.  By 1999 - 2002, the average had reached 191 pounds, according to the National Center for Health Statistics - part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which issued the report.  Similarly, the report said, the average woman's weight rose from 140.2 pounds to 164.3 pounds.  The trends are the same for children: average 10-year-olds weighed about 11 pounds more in 1999 - 2002 than they did 40 years ago.  So expect the next generation of adults to be even heavier than they are today, said Dr Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.  "All the kids who are obese now will become obese adults," Klein said.  "What will happen with the next generation of adults is really scary."

Obesity can increase the likelihood of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health problems.  The report also documented an increase in weight when measured by body mass index, a scale that takes into account both height and weight.  Average BMI for adults, ages 20 to 74, has increased from about 25 to 28 over the 40-year span.  Anyone with a BMI of 25 and up is considered overweight, and those with BMIs of 30 or more are considered obese.

At same time, though less dramatically, Americans are getting a little bit taller.  Men's average height increased from 5 feet 8 inches in the early 1960s to 5 feet 9.5 inches in 1999 - 2002.  The average height of a woman, meanwhile, went from just over 5 feet 3 inches to 5 feet 4 inches.  The increases in height and weight are both fuelled by the availability of more food, researchers say.  To reach genetic potential for height, the human body needs a certain level of nourishment, and the report shows that Americans have achieved it, said David Katz, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center.  "You have put every last calorie into the system that you need to reach your genetic potential," Katz said.  After that, he said, "there's only one place for the rest of those calories to go" - into fat.

The weight gain trend is typically reported as what portion of all children or all adults are overweight.  Those numbers are also alarming.  In 1999 - 2002, 31% of adults had a BMI of 30 or over, considered obese.  That's more than double the rate in the early '60s.  About 2 in 3 adults in 1999 - 2002 were considered overweight.  The explanations all involve too much food or not enough exercise.  Americans now have 300 channels instead of 3 to keep them in front of the tube - and a remote control to surf them.  Computers and video games keep adults and kids alike staring at screens.  E-mail lets people deliver messages without ever standing up.  And technological advances often mean less movement.  "Everyone has a leaf blower.  Ten years ago, people had rakes," David Katz, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center.

There are also changes in neighbourhoods.  Some are not safe, so kids and adults stay inside.  Others lack sidewalks or require someone to dodge 6 lanes of traffic if they want to walk to a store.  Food is also to blame.  Portions have gotten bigger, and people go out to eat more.  Junk food that stays fresh for a long time is more readily available.  It's much easier to find a bag of cookies or potato chips in the cupboard than an orange, which may go bad in a few days.

The report also found:

bulletAmong males, the increase in weight was most dramatic in older men: those 60 to 74 were nearly 33 pounds heavier in 1999 - 2002 than men that age in the early 1960s.
bulletAmong women, the difference was starkest in the young.  Women ages 20 to 29 were nearly 29 pounds heavier.
bulletFor children, the average weight for a 10-year-old boy went from 74.2 pounds in 1963 to nearly 85 pounds by 2002.  The average girl's weight went from 77.4 pounds to nearly 88 pounds.
bulletIt was the same for teens.  An average 15-year-old boy weighed 135.5 pounds in 1966, which rose to 150.3 pounds by 2002.  The average teen girl's weight went from 124.2 pounds to 134.4 pounds.

The report, "Mean Body Weight, Height and Body Mass Index, United States, 1960 - 2002," was based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which uses actual body measurements.

Source: story.news.yahoo.com Thursday 28 October 2004

Houston's Getting Fatter...

Houston tops a US magazine's annual fattest cities list for the 4th time in 5 years, with 4 other Texas cities waddling into the top 25.  Fast food restaurants - Houston has twice the national per capita average - are partly to blame for the dishonour, Men's Fitness editor-in-chief Neal Boulton said.  "Americans ... work long hours, don't take vacations, and when you're faced with the worst nutritional choices, you indulge in those," he said.  High humidity, poor air quality and some of the nation's longest commute times also helped Texas' most populous city unseat Detroit, the 2004 heavyweight champion, the magazine said.

Houston Mayor Bill White, who has worked with a major grocer to promote healthy food and the city's public schools superintendent to improve lunch menus, called the survey "mostly voodoo and fraud.  On the other hand, it calls attention to real issues the mayor is trying to address," his spokesman, Frank Michel, said.

The magazine said it looked at factors such as the number and types of restaurants, park space, air quality, weather and the number of health clubs.  Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis, and Chicago followed Houston on the 7th edition of the fat list.  Texas cities Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth and El Paso were in the top 14, which Boulton said was no surprise.  "It's pure big indulgence, just living big, and that's part of the culture," said Boulton.

Seattle ranked as the fittest city, followed by Honolulu, Hawaii, Colorado Springs, Colorado, San Francisco and Denver.  Austin and Arlington, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, were the only Texas cities on the fit list.  Austin was 19th and Arlington 22nd out of 25.

Source: news.yahoo.com Friday 7 January 2005

Houston, We Have a Big Problem

by Nanci Hellmich

Oh, no, not again!  Houston has been named the fattest city in the USA for the second year in a row by Men's Fitness magazine.  Other top-blubber towns in the annual analysis: Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Dallas.  In contrast, the fittest cities in the country are Colorado Springs, Denver, San Diego (number one last year), Seattle and San Francisco.  The rankings appear in the February issue, on stands Monday.

Some folks in Houston are tired of being picked on.  "All cities are fat.  To choose one is silly," says John Foreyt, an obesity expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.  "Yes, Houston is fat, but so is every other city.  We are a fat society.  Period."  In fact, 61% of Americans weigh too much, and about 27% of them are obese - 30 pounds or more over a healthy weight, according to federal statistics.

The magazine's goal is not to pick on any particular city, but to get the nation moving and thinking about fat, says editor-in-chief Jerry Kindela.  The towns bucking the trend tend to be out West and don't have to deal with sultry summers and arctic winters, and they also boast residents who have made fitness a priority, the editors say.

James Hill, an obesity researcher at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, says Colorado's climate and natural resources, including the mountains, attract health-conscious people and make it easier for them to be physically fit.  It's a culture that "values fitness and health," he says.

To come up with the lists, Men's Fitness evaluated the nations 50 largest cities with 16 equally weighted categories:

bulletoverweight and obesity rates
bulletjunk food outlets
bulletgyms/sporting goods retailers
bulletfruit and vegetable consumption
bulletparticipation in exercise/sports
bulletalcohol use
bulletTV viewing
bulletair quality
bulletwater quality
bulletclimate index
bulletcommute time
bulletparks/open spaces
bulletrecreation facilities
bullethealth care access

Here are a few of the points the magazine makes about the five fattest cities:

Houston - It gets clobbered by high TV viewership and low exercise and sports participation.  "There's not much that individuals can do about the poor air quality and even less about problematic geography, but they can turn off the tube and get out to their parks, which offer a variety of free programs for kids and adults," the editors write.

Chicago - The Windy City has the worst climate of the 50 cities surveyed.  Summers are hot and humid; winter brings nearly 90 days of below-freezing temperatures.  Air quality is poor, and the commute times are among the worst, the editors say.  It "is the second worst in the category of parks and open space, with 394 people per acre, compared to San Diego's ratio of 34 people per acre," the editors write.

Detroit - Poor grades in climate and geography might be excusable, but considering how lousy the air is here "why do so many smoke?" the magazine asks.  Add substandard nutrition, a lack of fitness centers, poor access to health care and a tough commute, and the Motor City sputters and stalls.

Philadelphia - It's climbing up the fitness ladder.  Two years ago, Mayor John Street took the city's fattest city ranking as a call to action.  He appointed a health-and-fitness czar and backed a variety of innovative fitness ideas.  Philadelphians "could easily clamber a few more rungs up the fitness ladder they'd switch off the cable and stub out their cigarettes," the magazine says.

Dallas - It has four times more restaurants per person than New York.  It also has more than its fair share of junk food, including 105 doughnut shops.

The magazine on the fittest cities:

Colorado Springs - The city gets top ranking for exercise and also excels in low TV viewership.

Denver - Residents love sports, biking and jogging, and they don't care much for television.

San Diego - There are lots of venues for the walking/biking/jogging crowd.

Seattle - More than 27% of the population are hikers; racquetball also popular, the editors say.

San Francisco - Nearly 40% of the residents report recreational walking.

The Fattest

The Fittest

  1. Houston
  2. Chicago
  3. Detroit
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Dallas
  6. Columbus, Ohio
  7. San Antonio
  8. Fort Worth
  9. St Louis
  10. Indianapolis
  11. Tulsa
  12. Atlanta
  13. Cleveland
  14. El Paso
  15. Miami
  16. New York
  17. Kansas City, Missouri
  18. Phoenix
  19. Baltimore
  20. New Orleans
  21. Charlotte, North Carolina
  22. Milwaukee
  23. Las Vegas
  24. Mesa, Arizona
  25. Wichita
  1. Colorado Springs
  2. Denver
  3. San Diego
  4. Seattle
  5. San Francisco
  6. Virginia Beach
  7. Honolulu
  8. Sacramento
  9. Albuquerque
  10. Boston
  11. Portland, Oregon
  12. Tucson
  13. Fresno
  14. Minneapolis
  15. Oakland
  16. Austin
  17. Memphis
  18. Los Angeles
  19. Omaha
  20. San Jose, California
  21. Washington, DC
  22. Oklahoma City
  23. Jacksonville
  24. Nashville
  25. Long Beach, California

Source: USA Today Thursday 3 January 2002

Fat Thighs May Benefit Health, Say Researchers

by Carey Goldberg

For all the women who look down on their ample thighs with loathing: Fret no more.  There is new reason to love that dimpled plumpness.  For many people, mainly women, fat on legs, hips, and buttocks may actually help ward off heart disease and diabetes, recent research suggests.

University of Colorado researchers reported that in a study of 95 women past menopause, being bottom-heavy was linked to better scores on several ominous markers in the blood, including triglycerides and high sugar levels.  When women were also heavy above the waist, most advantages of the leg fat vanished, but thick thighs still improved their scores on triglycerides, potentially harmful fats in the blood.  "Our body of research, as well as some others, suggest that leg fat is good fat," said Rachael Van Pelt, the lead researcher on this week's study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.  "It's protective, at least with respect to the risk factors we've looked at."

Researchers are not sure exactly why leg fat carries benefits, but this latest study complements the growing understanding that all fat is not alike.  In recent years it has become clearer that "visceral fat," which wraps around organs and swells waistlines, poses the greatest health danger, while "peripheral fat" on arms and legs is more benign and, according to recent research, may even be helpful.  Researchers caution that their work does not translate into advice to gain or retain excess weight.  Though people tend toward either a bottom-heavy pear shape or a top-heavy apple shape, there is no way to gain only peripheral fat without gaining visceral fat, as well.  But researches say that it raises questions about liposuction and whether surgically removing thigh fat is a good idea.

Many women may obsess over slimming their thighs, but "you want to pay attention to controlling your waistline, and if that's under control, that's more important than physical appearance per se," said Dr Anne B Newman, a University of Pittsburgh professor.  Newman co-authored another recent study that found that among more than 3,000 men and women in their 70s, thigh fat was often linked to lower rates of ''metabolic syndrome," a cluster of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease that includes high levels of sugar and bad cholesterol in the blood.  In that study, thigh fat was linked to better scores on those measures among overweight women and among both men and women fat enough to qualify as obese.

It is likely that thigh fat also helps people of other ages, said Van Pelt, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center.  How thigh fat might work its magic has not been established.  One theory is that it acts as a kind of metabolic sink, clearing triglycerides and other harmful compounds from the blood, researchers say.  Another possibility is that leg fat does not actually have an effect itself.  Rather, it simply reflects healthy body processes that make a woman tend to store fat in the safer, peripheral areas, instead of in the more harmful, visceral area.  It is not clear why the process differs in people.

Studies in animals offer additional support for the benefits of peripheral fat, said Dr Osama Hamdy, director of the clinical obesity program at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.  In one experiment, when peripheral fat was surgically removed from mice, their visceral fat increased and began to secrete more of the dangerous compounds that can lead to diabetes and heart disease, he said.  When the fat was put back into the mice, those effects abated.

And in another human study, Hamdy said, the women who had the best scores on indicators of future heart health were those with the least central-body fat and the highest percentage of peripheral fat.  They even did better than those who were lean all over.

Van Pelt's study measured subjects' body fat using a CT scanner and a type of X-ray used to check for osteoporosis and also examined their blood markers for the metabolic syndrome.  Her group found that leg fat appeared to improve the levels of insulin, glucose, triglycerides, and harmful cholesterol in people's blood.  However, when a woman had an excess of abdominal fat, it trumped the leg fat on all the measures except triglycerides.  The study did not follow the subjects over time to see how their health fared, but markers like cholesterol and triglycerides are considered good indicators of whether a person is on the road to diabetes and heart disease.

Van Pelt is seeking a grant to follow a group of liposuction patients to see what happens to their blood markers after their leg fat is reduced.  One liposuction study looked at patients who had more than 20 pounds of fat removed and found no apparent benefit to the blood markers of their heart health, Hamdy said.  However, unlike the animal studies, it showed no harm, either.

Judging by the reaction from sunbathers on Boston's Malibu Beach yesterday, the news that there may be health advantages to having leg fat may not persuade many women to love their thighs.  Every woman she knows hates her own thighs "unequivocally" and that is unlikely to change, said Lynne Trayers, a Norwood dialysis technician.  "Fashion magazines have more impact than science."

Carey Goldberg is reachable at goldberg@globe.com

Source: www.boston.com 13 August 2005

Easy Diet Tip:

When blindfolded, obese volunteers ate one-quarter less food - with no loss in satisfaction (this is because of the "visual appeal" of food).

Source: www.sciencenews.org 8 February 2003

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Comment: Fat City
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2005 20:18:42 -0500
From: hollyb@geis.school.co.nz

Why do we have obesity?



The simple answer is too much food and too little activity.

The too much food part doesn't refer just to quantity but to variety as well.  People eat more when they are tempted by something new, when they might have been able to resist food they had grown tired of.  Cooking food is another reason - when people smell hot food, it triggers hunger in some people when they wouldn't ordinarily have thought about food right then.  More stressful jobs cause some people to eat more because eating releases chemicals in the brain that make some people feel better (kind of like smoking cigarettes does for other people).

But the inactivity part is just as important.  People used to work on farms or in factories where they were active much more than now.  People use lifts instead of taking the stairs and drive to the supermarket and park as close to the door as they can rather than walking everywhere and carrying lots of heavy bags all the way home.  People don't play sports in the evenings as much - we have become accustomed to a higher level of comfort.  Amusing ourselves with tv or music indoors is so much easier.

All these things add up over the months and years to be a considerable addition of weight.  Getting excess weight back off is hard because our bodies are programmed to hang on to body fat when we aren't eating much just in case there's a famine.  Hundreds of years ago when food was scarce at times, the people whose bodies did this well are the people who lived through lean times.

I hope this helps.  Thank you very much for writing.

Ruth Hatch

See also:

bulletRules of Attraction - Is it worthwhile to lose weight?  Consider this: In 1992, the individual net worth of an obese woman (defined as having a "body mass index" of more than 35) was, on average, 40% lower than that of a woman of "normal" weight, after adjusting statistically for factors such as age, education, professional status, marital status and health.  By 1998, the economic penalty for being fat had increased: the net worth of the obese woman was 60% less than that of her slimmer sisters...
bulletEven at Work, Pretty People Advance Faster than Plain - For decades, psychology research has shown that attractive people have a better chance at getting hired, getting promoted, getting the permission of bosses to embark on ambitious projects, landing more clients and getting a fatter paycheque...
bulletBad News for the Plain and Ordinary - With every man vying for the attention of the most beautiful women, an averagely attractive man was almost as likely to be lumbered with Miss 900 as he was to get Miss 200 in his top 1,000 list...
bulletEnhancing Human Traits - ethical and social implications
bulletThe Sweet Taste of Beating the Sugar Habit (earlier in this same section) - to find out how many calories are in your favourite mall dessert...
bulletWe're All Addicted to Cooked Food (in the section on Drugs) - especially the last article for a novel approach to fixing the problem.

How to Survive a Heart Attack when Alone

Let's say it's 6:15pm and you're driving home (alone of course), after an unusually hard day on the job.  You're really tired, upset and frustrated.  Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to radiate out into your arm and up into your jaw.  You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home.  Unfortunately you don't know if you'll be able to make it that far.

What can you do?  You've been trained in CPR but the guy that taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself.

Many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack.  Without help, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness.  However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously.  A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest.  A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.

Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating.  The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm.  In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital.  The Johnson City Medical Center staff discovered this and followed it up with an in-depth study.  The two individuals that first noted this wrote a published article and also incorporated it into ACLS and CPR classes.  It is called cough CPR.

From Health Cares, Rochester General Hospital via Chapter 240s newsletter "And the Beat Goes On ..." (reprint from The Mended Hearts, Incorporated publication, Heart Response)

Source: Lock & Key Newsletter 7 Arizona Association for Property and Evidence

I received an email from someone telling me that the information above was "an urban legend" and "dangerous."  I must disagree.  If someone has a heart attack and is alone, the above instruction won't hurt and might help.  After all, what, exactly, is the alternative?  Never be alone?

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