I mourn the Americans who are suffering from the coronavirus epidemic but I mourn even more the tens of thousands of Americans who die prematurely each year and suffer life-long from obesity. In both cases, our government should be doing more to protect us.
The latest U.S. obesity-related statistics from the Centers for Disease Control are horrifying: obesity prevalence is 42.4 percent and prevalence of severe obesity is 9.2 percent. These statistics are similar across Whites, Blacks and Latinos but greatly exceed the 17.4 percent obesity and 2.0 percent severe obesity prevalence of Asian-Americans.
I really enjoyed the taste of U.S. foods like cheese burgers, French fries and ice cream during my first year of college in 1969 but when they caused me to gain 15 pounds, I reverted to the Mediterranean diet that I was raised on. I gradually returned to my normal weight, which I have maintained for 50 years. In 1969, the U.S. obesity prevalence was 15 percent; severe obesity was 2 percent. In my lifetime, the U.S. prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled and that of severe obesity has quadrupled.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the “U.S. News and World Report” annual rankings of best diets have identified the Mediterranean diet as a model diet. Like the Mediterranean diet, the traditional Asian dietary pattern features lots of fresh vegetables, fish and legumes, and little red meat, cheese or added sugar. President Trump is obese, avoids eating vegetables, eats steaks daily, refuses to believe that Europe or Japan is better than the U.S. in any way and has induced two thirds of the government’s nutrition scientists responsible for providing nutritional guidance to Americans to resign. He eliminated Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign and rolled back federal school nutrition guidelines. The result is, sadly, predictable: The current annual increase in U.S. obesity prevalence has doubled compared to what it was during the Obama years.
Japanese adults today have an obesity prevalence of 3.7 percent and live on average 5.6 years longer than Americans. We could lead richer, longer, higher quality lives if we swallowed our national pride and adopted healthier “foreign” dietary patterns.