By Kathleen Parker
WASHINGTON – Close your eyes and picture 110 million obese people waddling around America’s sidewalks. You’ll probably want to keep your eyes closed.
Such is the scenario suggested by a new study projecting that 42 percent of American adults will be obese by 2030. That’s 32 million more than today’s 78 million. Of course, they probably won’t be waddling. They’ll be in their cars in the fast-food lane, as they are now.
Something no less than a “major public health intervention” is needed, according to Eric Finkelstein, a health economist with the Duke University Global Health Institute and lead author of the study.
What this means is anyone’s guess, but it isn’t far-fetched to infer that a government-mandated health care system eventually would necessitate a government-mandated diet to control costs.
Fat is indeed a plague and most of us struggle to varying degrees. There are about 12 renegade pounds out there that love me so much they never want to be far away.
At this point, we make the necessary disclaimer that some people are blessed with hummingbird metabolisms (and we hate them), and others are genetically inclined toward fatness. Genetic inclination isn’t a life sentence, however, and personal responsibility can’t be excluded as contributing to most fatty outcomes. These days, responsibility isn’t only about pushing away from the table, but it means educating oneself.
Getting fat has never been easier, of course. Food is plentiful and convenient, and the bad stuff is tasty and cheap.
Out of sheer exhaustion, we fool ourselves into thinking children should have a say in what they eat. We know that the mystery of non-medical obesity isn’t really so mysterious. In a word, it’s about sugar, including hidden sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
On average, Americans consume about 60 pounds of HFCS per person per year, according to the study.
Here’s the simple explanation: Refined or simple sugars and their cousins – high-glycemic carbohydrates (think white bread and potatoes) – cause the pancreas to produce high levels of insulin, which cause the body to store excess sugar not used for energy as fat. The liver in turn is induced to produce cholesterol.
We love high-glycemic carbs because they make us feel good by spiking our blood sugar. But what goes up must come down – with a thud. When our blood sugar inevitably plunges, we feel tired, ornery and hungry – and we repeat the cycle.
Low-glycemic foods (think apples and collard greens), on the other hand, release energy at a steady, less-dramatic rate, and our blood sugar stays reasonably level. Less sugar means less insulin means less fat means leaner bodies means better health.
Oh sure, eating with such attention to the glycemic index ruins your life. You won’t have any friends. You’ll spend all your time alone weighing four-ounce cuts of fat-free meat, sautÈing spinach and picking flaxseed out of your teeth – and your children will hate you – but you’ll be thin. Best of all, you won’t need to go to the doctor as often, or rely on federal food marshals to tell you what to eat.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.