The United States is the fattest country in the world -- and I'm not talking about our wallets, folks! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a disheartening 35.7% of the population is considered obese. That's considerably higher than the next closest countries, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia, which have obesity rates ranging between 25% and 30%.
A huge, but largely preventable, problem The sad part about obesity is that it's preventable more often than not. Medical costs associated with obesity were estimated by the CDC in 2008 at $147 billion annually, with obese people, on average, registering a cost premium of $1,429 as compared to someone of average weight. Obesity also brings on higher risks of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers.
And it isn't just that being overweight has been shown to be poor for your long-term health; it's that society has surrounded itself in a cocoon that frowns upon obesity from the magazines we read, to the commercials we watch, and the movies we see on the big screen. The push toward creating a healthier lifestyle has begun in our homes with the way we eat, exercise, and live our lives. Unfortunately, as the following U.S. obesity map shows, it's not been nearly enough.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obesity has also been a big research driver in the pharmaceutical sector as well where 13 years went by since the last chronic weight management drug was approved. That changed last year with the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS)'s Qsymia and Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARNA)'s Belviq for the treatment of chronic weight management. Neither drug is a miracle cure, but an average weight loss of around 6% to 8% can be expected on either pill over a year's time based on late-stage clinical trial results.
America's hidden obesity epidemic However, an even scarier obesity trend is likely rearing its head in another part of your household and you aren't even aware of it. Close to one half of all families are oblivious to its existence, but contribute to it anyway. What I'm talking about is the rampant pet obesity epidemic in this country!
According to the latest study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention conducted in 2012 and released last month, a staggering 55% of household pets (52% of dogs and 58% of cats) are considered either overweight or obese. Furthermore, in APOP's study, 45% of pet owners incorrectly identified their pet as being "normal weight" when the veterinarian identified the pet as either "overweight" or "obese." That equates to just shy of 80 million animals in this country that are suffering from the same types of ailments as humans: mainly hypertension, osteoarthritis, and an increased risk of diabetes and certain types of cancers solely because of their weight.
Now, I have a confession to make -- I am the proud owner of an overweight Dachshund. I had no problem in recognizing that he was overweight, yet, as a member of the family, I had no qualms about giving him an extra treat when he was younger. Having now reached middle age for his breed, I'm beginning to notice what those extra pounds are doing to him from a health perspective; and it's not good. It's definitely difficult saying "no" to my dog, but I've managed to work off 17% of his previous body weight in the past year through smaller food portions and more rigorous exercise.
The point is that just as we saw with many cases of human obesity, pet obesity can be mitigated with proper diet, exercise, and a want by owners to change the quality of life for their pets. I'm making that move, but far too many owners are simply complacent in doing nothing.