Conquering the Most Ruinous Epidemic: Obesity

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It is not the noticeable dangers that should be feared, but the ones that are not spoken of. One of these dangers happens to be the rising obesity epidemic, which can be a result of consuming large quantities of processed or fast foods. Fast food has been a revolutionary force in American life, yet the consequences of consuming these foods are not stressed enough. The government fails to notify the public about the real issues concerning processed foods; therefore, the public is unaware of the real consequences that occur when consuming certain foods that are high in sugar. The government fails to stress the importance of the rising obesity epidemic that exists in the United States. If the public was made aware of the real dangers associated with obesity, eating habits may be changed, possibly placing a damper on America’s rising obesity epidemic; therefore, when advertising or selling food, there should be more disclaimers warning individuals of the effects of addiction plays on obesity.

The obesity epidemic that exists within the United States is affecting every aspect of America, even it's children. The issue continues to increase, and this can be seen in the young children being diagnosed with obesity. Obese children face social stigma that can affect their psychological health greatly. Overweight youth demonstrate low self esteem that essentially contributes to their obesity and weight gain, creating a vicious cycle. The negative health outcomes are a result of teasing from peers, criticism from parents, and external beliefs such as believing their weight is beyond their control (Harriger 7). Social factors related to weight play a huge role in not only the self esteem in individuals, but weight gain in general.

There is also evidence that like low self-esteem, there may be some correlation between depression and weight gain. Negatively affected body image contributes greatly to weight gain, given those dissatisfied with their image are more likely to engage in dieting, unhealthy weight control behaviors and binge eating, and lower levels of physical activity (Neumark-Sztainer D 3). This could be a result of weight based stigmatization, which is the ‘negative weight-related attitudes and beliefs that are manifested through stereotypes, bias, rejection, and prejudice towards children and adolescents because they are overweight or obese’ (Puhl & Latner 558). Social stigmas or societies negative view of obese or overweight individual’s essentially plays part in America’s increasing obesity epidemic.

Not only does society’s view of overweight individuals contribute to weight gain, so does the food being produced for society to consume. It is proposed that exposure to new chemicals in foods and in our environment are contributing greatly to the increase in overweight citizens (Matthews 2012). Humans are now consuming foods that do not exist in nature, that are new to the human body. These certain chemicals, such as proteins from genetically modified foods, high fructose corn syrup, and increased amounts of sugars and grain have all played a part in transforming the human phenotype (Matthews 5).

There has been drastic changes in what has been consumed, and how much is being consumed compared to life millions of years ago. It is safe to say that the increase in the amount of high fructose corn syrup being consumed parallels the drastic rise in obesity (Matthews 12). The new chemicals are also able to affect the way humans burn and use energy (Matthews 13), and not only that, but force the body to build up a tolerance to what is being consumed, meaning increased consumption equals the same effects. Clearly, foreign chemicals being introduced to the human body have the ability to cause significant weight gain, but that is not the only negative effect.

When studying the rising obesity epidemic, it is important to note that food addiction is the main factor in the rising obesity epidemic. Similarities between drug addiction and food addiction help to further study this issue. Viewing it from the standpoint of drug addiction gives a basis for studying and adopting treatment based on the concepts of drug addiction. To begin, the consumption of food activates the dopamine pathways, initially being driven by the rewarding properties it offers (Volkow 2). Repeated stimulation of this action may result in adaptations, making the behavior more compulsive (Volkow 3). This is when addiction takes place, and individuals find it difficult to resist the urge to consume food, despite knowing the negative effects that may follow.

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Food addiction can be seen in many obese individuals. In fact, an interactive “overweight” intervention website found that many participants “struggled to resist urges to eat highly pleasurable foods, in spite of full awareness of the effects of weight gain” (Pretlow 23). It is hypothesized that adaptation in the reward circuit and in other circuitry, that repeated exposure to large amounts of pleasurable foods is also similar to what can be seen in repeated drug exposures (Volkow 4). Comparing the addictive qualities of processed food to drug addiction has helped in understanding the effects that processed foods has not only on the body, but the mind. Clearly, food addiction plays a huge role in the rising obesity epidemic in the United States, individuals unable to control their urges to consume large quantities of highly palatable foods. The real issue, though, may lie with the government.

Consumption of genetically modified or processed foods can be detrimental to human health, not only contributing to obesity. Health risks associated with consuming these foods consist of antibiotic resistance, aller-genicity, nutritional changes and the formation of toxins (Maghari 11). Although genetically modified food labeling is required by law on products composed from such, it is clear that the issues and consequences following the consumption of such foods is not stressed nor made known to the general public like it should be. Consumer knowledge of this topic is surprisingly low, with only 48% knowing these processed foods were available in the supermarket, and only 31% believing they had consumed these foods (Wunderlich 7). In the same study, only five percent stated they had a good understanding about genetically modified.

As for solving this issue, it is important not only for the government to take steps towards a solution, but society also. The way society views those suffering from obesity has the ability to affect body image, which creates a vicious cycle in weight gain. Increases in overweight individuals, and specifically in children, can be seen due to teasing from peers, criticism from parents, and certain external beliefs. Robert Pretlow’s social experiment addressed the way society is capable of making young adults feel about their struggle with obesity. In the interactive “overweight” intervention website, many teens interacted anonymously, opening up about how they perceived themselves. Experiments such as this one are essential in understanding the effects society has on America’s increasing obesity epidemic, helping give insight on how the amount of young individuals that truly suffer both physically and psychologically. With more public awareness, it is possible to reduce social judgement and raise the self esteem of many individuals suffering from obesity.

Not only should society’s negative view on overweight individuals be an issue to tackle, but also the negative effects with consuming genetically modified foods and addiction. These two issues themselves should be stressed and made aware to the public. Better warnings should exist on these food labels, and food nutrition should be a focus of attention in schools or other places of learning. Food labeling should very clearly state the risks of food addiction and obesity, and within time, a decrease in America’s obesity epidemic may hopefully be seen. Many American’s are unaware of the effects of consuming genetically modified food, and how consuming such chemicals can negatively impact weight gain. The government should be held accountable for the lack of knowledge amongst Americans about what they are consuming. Making the public aware, people can then avoid purchasing harmful foods, and food producers will adjust accordingly (Matthews 16). Although tackling the obesity epidemic will not be simple, it can be done if it is viewed as an issue with food production rather than just an excessive fat issue.

Making the public aware of what they are consuming will also decrease the risk of food addiction in individuals. Americans deserve to know what they are consuming, and deserve to be more knowledgeable about food nutrition. Tackling this issue from a drug addiction perspective has helped give researchers a basis on creating treatment for tackling obesity: incorporating substance dependence methods (Pretlow 1). This is important, given in Robert Pretow’s interactive “overweight” intervention website, many participants demonstrated DSM-IV substance dependence, or addiction, criteria (Pretlow 1). Although there are ways to conquer this issue, they could have been avoided from the beginning if consumers were aware of the addictive qualities of food.

In conclusion, there are many factors that contribute greatly to the rising obesity epidemic that exists within the United States. Social factors, food production, and food’s addictive quality have resulted in a nation of overweight or obese individuals. There are ways to resolve this major issue in America, much of it lies within in society and the government. Society affects an individual's body image, which creates a vicious cycle with obesity. It is important to raise public awareness on the psychological effects that accompany obesity. The government’s production of genetically modified food without any nutritional knowledge available for its consumers result in many struggling with their weight. Taking on this issue may be lengthy, but would improve America’s health as a whole.

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Conquering the Most Ruinous Epidemic: Obesity. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
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