Are Americans winning the war on weight gain? The truth is disappointing and inescapable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that obesity rates in the United States are stable but high across the country. More than one-third, or 78.6 million of U.S. adults are obese, and obesity is linked to life-threatening diseases including cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, as well as poorer mental outcomes. Obesity causes a significant economic burden, as well. Medical costs for people with obesity are $1,429 higher per year than those of normal weight. The estimated annual medical costs of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 dollars.
Obesity has been increasing at a dramatic rate. Over the past 35 years, obesity rates have more than doubled. Today, the average adult American is more than 24 pounds heavier than in 1960.
Sadly, children have been profoundly affected by the obesity epidemic. Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1980.
We understand that obesity is a complex health problem that is caused by many factors, including diet, level of physical activity, use of medications including antibiotics, and genetic factors.
Food industry marketing and advertising, and habits formed at home, school and the workplace also affect us.
As a physician concerned with the significant impact of obesity health, it is my mission to encourage children and adults to take control of their own lifestyle choices. Over 50 percent of all cancer is preventable by applying what we know right now in terms of diet, exercise, ending smoking, limiting or avoiding alcohol, protecting our skin from the sun, and managing stress. Overweight and obesity, diet and lack of exercise are responsible for about 30 percent of all cancer.
Many steps have been taken by the federal government to improve the quality of nutrition in the lives of Americans. In February, 2015, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee submitted its report to the Secretaries of the United States Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Agriculture (USDA). These guidelines are in keeping with the recommendations of the American Heart Association, and the American Institute for Cancer Research. The committee's report advised increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, legumes, nuts, and low- or non-fat dairy products. They recommended a diet lower in red and processed meat, and limiting or avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts.
Although the committee's report was met with opposition from the meat industry, scientific evidence indicates that cancer risk is increased by consumption of red meat and processed meat. The World Health Organization's report released on Oct. 26, 2015, declared that processed meats cause cancer, and red meats "probably" cause cancer, reinforcing the recommendations of many health professionals.
With these guidelines in mind, I am collaborating in an initiative called the "9-Minute Meal" to encourage the preparation of healthful, plant-based meals at home. The 9-Minute Meal is an idea conceived in conjunction with Less Cancer, a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the reduction of cancer risk, and also with Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, and American University. I am a board member and the volunteer director of medical and scientific content for Less Cancer.
We are sharing nutritious, easy-to-prepare meals with the public through social media. Home-based cooks, students and adults and professional and celebrity chefs are invited to film themselves preparing an easy-to-prepare meal that is plant-based. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and fish and poultry are the focus of the healthy eating habits that we are trying to promote. Whenever possible, organic produce, fish, poultry, eggs, and other products are preferred. Recipes prepared with olive oil, rather than butter, and without added sugar, are welcomed.
All are invited to participate in this exciting initiative to demonstrate that preparing healthful meals at home is easy and affordable. Please use the hashtag #9MinuteMeal.
Veggie Spaghetti is my first entry to the 9-Minute Meal. It's simple to prepare, and a family of four can be served a healthful entree for less than $10. I hope that you'll enjoy this making this delicious recipe at home. We owe it to ourselves, to our families, and to the future of America to improve the quality of our daily diets, and keep America healthy and lean. Buon appetito!