The Obesity Crisis Due to Fast Foods

McDonalds Restaurant

Obesity Crisis in the World, US and Michigan

Obesity is the abnormal accumulation of fats thatcan impair health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO),when the Body Mass Index (BMI) is greater or equal to 30, then theindividual is obese (World Health Organization 1). Over years,obesity has doubled. As per 2014 statistics by WHO, 600 millionadults, of age 18 and older were obese. At around 2013, 42 millionchildren under the age of 5 were overweight or obese. In the world,most nations have more people dying of obesity than underweightcomplications yet it is preventable. The paper will discuss thecrisis of obesity in the world, the United States and Michigan aswell as the implications to health and economic cost. There will alsobe a discussion on measures put across by a fast food chain to handlethe problem.

In 2014, 13% of the world’s adult population wassuffering from obesity. 11% were men and 15% were women (CDC 1). Theproblem is much higher in the urban centres and it is much moreincreasing in the underdeveloped countries than the developed ones.Obesity is caused by increased intake of foods with high content,fats and lack of exercise. Inactivity is majorly caused by increaseduse of machines for work as well as a comfortable means of transportsuch that an individual has no room for the exercise (World HealthOrganization 1). On the issue of dieting, poor diets lead toincreased intakes of fats hence they get stored and accumulate in thebody.

In The United States, there is a growing rate ofobesity. Despite a constant campaign on healthy diets and physicalexercise, a number of people still remain overweight or obese. In1997 there was 19.4% of the population above age 20 with the problem(Sternand Kazaks 18). In 2004 thepercentage grew to 24.5%, while in 2007 it rose to 26.6% (CDC1). In the year 2010 the percentagegrew to 33.8% and there is a continued increase in percentage.According to the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP),the statistics shows that the percentage was 35.7% (CDC 1).Currently, the figures are 34.9% for adults and below 20 years wehave 17% obesity.

According to Segal (9), the state of Michiganranks tenth when it comes to the most obese states in the USA. Theadult obesity rate stands at 29.4 %. The ratio of adult obese mensurpasses that of the women in Michigan. The prevalence of obesitydepends on a variety of factors in Michigan. Among them are age,gender, ethnicity and socio-economic class (Sternand Kazaks 21). The rate of obesityin men of the African and Hispanic origin in their 40’s, is higherthan that of their white counterparts.

According to Segal (8), “In this particular ageclassification, the percentage of obese African American males is38.2%. Latinos come second with 34.6%, while whites come in last with28.9%” (Segal 8). Statistics also show a great disparity thecorrelation between obesity and level of income. Households earningless than $15,000 per annum are four times more likely to becomeobese than those earning $50,000 and above. Health organizations havedeclared obesity a national health risk. The government and citizensneed to take precautionary measures before the situation culminatesinto a national disaster.

McDonald’s Motive for Addressing Obesity

Working as a consultant team for the McDonaldsFast Food restaurant, the restaurant has a clear motive in addressingobesity. In 2002, a group of children in mid- school filed a lawsuitagainst McDonalds claiming that eating at the restaurant’s outletshad made them obese (Mello et al 2). Through their lawyer, thechildren were suing for compensation due to health problems accruedfrom obesity, improved labelling of the nutritional content ofMcDonalds’ products, and a public campaign to create awareness forobesity. The case caused a stir in the public. There was countrywidedebate regarding who should be responsible when the consumers of acertain product suffer side effects.

One side of the divide claimed that nobody hasever sued tobacco companies because of tobacco- related issues (Melloet al 6). They claimed that the lawyers were out to make money.Another group was arguing that McDonald should be held accountablebecause they did not warn people of the possible effects of consumingtheir products. Of course, the case was dismissed because there wasno evidence linking McDonalds’ products to obesity in the children.However, the lawsuit brought to light the possible effects of obesityof on the body weight (Sternand Kazaks 24). McDonalds’ambition is to be a positive force to its customers and people aroundthe world.

Existing Research and Interventions

Primary causes of obesity

Increased levels of inactivity among Americans areto blame for the rising cases of obesity (Ogden et al 229). With theadvent of technology, the average American does not have to moveabout unnecessarily. When they are watching TV, they do not have tostand up to change the channel because they have the remote (Sternand Kazaks 29). When they feelhungry, all they have to do is make a call to the nearest pizza placeand it will be delivered in a minute. Today’s children do not goout to play like normal kids should. They spend days on end watchingTV and playing video games.

Besides, research has linked obesity to a minimumof two hours of TV in a day. The numerous vehicles in our countryhave also increased the levels of inactivity among Americans.Nowadays, people barely walk. Some drive to a gym that is two milesaway from their house. Due to rising incidents of child abuse,parents have resulted to driving their children to school (Ogden etal 231). The school curriculum also scrapped off physical education.All these factors have led to an increase in levels of inactivity.

Trusell et al (245) found out that energyimbalance is the main causes of obesity. In their research, theyfound out that people who consume more calories than they burn aremore prone to obesity. The article goes on to give an estimate ofcalories for common types of food. According to the article,carbohydrates and lipids are high in calories. Examples ofcarbohydrates include breakfast cereal, cake, cookies, candy, sodaand beer. High levels of lipids (fats) are plenty in fries, bacon andburgers.

According to Sternand Kazaks (31), foods that are richin proteins and vitamins or fiber were found to be low in calories.Examples of proteins include egg whites, milk, fish, red meat andchicken. Vitamins include foods such as vegetables, fruits and salad.When people consume more calories without burning them later, itleads to an accumulation of fats and consequently, obesity (Sternand Kazaks 42). Proteins on theother hand build up on lean mass and blood cells. Researchers advisepeople to engage in “physical exercise to rid their bodies ofexcess calories” (Bray et al 274).

According to Yanovski and Yanovski (239), genesand family history play a major role in the obesity of the offspring.The duo gives the example of two identical twins that were separatedat birth to be raised in different parts of the world. 20 yearslater, the identical twins weighed relatively the same even thoughthey had been raised in different socio- economic settings. Usingthis logic, when parents are obese, it is very likely that some oftheir children will be obese too.

The same reasoning applies to individuals who livean unhealthy lifestyle. The unhealthy lifestyle is characterized byeating junk food, having minimal exercise (Sternand Kazaks 21). However, people canlead this type of life, but remain within the normal weight rangewhile others eat right and exercise regularly but remain obese. Thegenetic makeup of an individual will determine the level ofmetabolism of excess calories, and the rate of accumulation of fatsin the body (Segal and Allison 89). However, the revelation does notmean that genetically disadvantaged individuals cannot lose weight.It only means that they have to work harder than the average Joe.

Secondary Causes of Obesity

According to Maddox and Liederman (24), thecurrent environment of the USA does not support a healthy lifestyle.There are no sidewalks in the neighbourhood, area parks, or saferecreation sites. Private developers have taken up all the availablespace. The gyms have become too expensive for the common folks toafford. The high costs of living have denied people the chance toexercise because all they do is move from one job to the next. Insome parts of the country, people do not eat healthy because theylack access to healthy food. Some neighbourhoods lack supermarketsthat sell fresh fruit and vegetables. In some neighbourhoods, thecost of healthy eating is exorbitant. Finally, the modern Americanenvironment is full of junk food advertising. People get attracted tothese foods because of the glamorous images they paint during theadvertisements.

Some health conditions may lead to obesity (Harveyand Hill 278). They include hypothyroidism, polycystic ovariansyndrome and Cushing’s syndrome. In hypothyroidism, the bodyproduces little level of the hormone called thyroid, which isresponsible for speeding up metabolism. The aftermath is anaccumulation of fats due to underutilization. The adrenal glands ofpeople with the Cushing’s syndrome produce too much of the hormonecalled Cortisol. People suffering from this condition have obese intheir upper bodies. Their necks are rounded and their chestsbroadened. Their legs and arms are thin. The Polycystic Ovariansyndrome is common in women of child- bearing age. Higher levels of ahormone called androgen make the women gain weight and develop somereproductive health problems.

Interventions

The problem of obesity is a rising trend. Since2012, the rates of obesity have been rising especially in children.Health officials are afraid that they might have to declare obesity anational disaster in the near future. The government is trying tostop the trend to prevent future expenses on obesity. As aprecautionary measure, the government has put some regulations inplace to curb the sky- rocketing prevalence rates of obesity.

According to Blackburn and Walker (234), thegovernment came up with a popular policy in 2008. It was now arequirement for all fast food restaurants to indicate the amount ofcalories in all the fast foods they sell. The idea behind this policywas to prevent people from inadvertently consuming food that is highin calories. However, research shows that the idea may not haveworked. In a study done in Seattle in 2008, the researchers found outthat the sales volume of foods with high calories did not go downdespite the government regulation (Blackburn and Walker 229). Whenthe researchers interviewed consumers regarding the same, a largepercentage shockingly revealed that they could not stop consumingtheir favorite food just because they realized it has high calories.

The government has also introduced more taxes onsugary food to deter the public from consuming them (Sturm and Datar154). The main idea behind this move was to reduce the level ofaccessibility by the public to foods that lead to obesity. Thegovernment provided an alternative by making healthy foods accessibleto the public. The taxes imposed on fresh fruits and vegetables wentdown. However, the consumption of foods that are high in calories issimilar to nicotine addiction. Lovers of junk food will not stoptheir hobby just because the government made the commodity moreexpensive. They will work harder to afford the food or just divertmoney meant for other things to buying junk food. The onlyinstitution that benefited from this arrangement was the government.It collected more money in taxes while the consumption of junk foodremained the same.

Non- governmental organizations have also come outin numbers to condemn fast food restaurants for allegedly makingAmericans overweight (Wotan and Osborn 23). They claim that thecompanies are selling poison to Americans. However, the companiesclaim that they are not responsible for what may happen if peopleconsume in excess of their products. They point out to slender peopleeating in the same restaurant as proof that their food does not causeobesity. The campaigns have not helped in reducing obesity.

Analysis and Recommendations

McDonald’s fight against obesity

Since McDonalds and many other fast foodrestaurants have been implicated in the causes of obesity, thecompany has taken a few measures to curb obesity as part of its CSRprogram (McDonalds 2). A few years ago, researchers revealed that theconsumption of junk food was an addiction to some people. Despite thegovernment regulations, this group of people was not willing to giveup their love of junk food. The company came up with the idea ofreducing the amount of calories in its products. Since obese peoplewere already addicted to certain kinds of junk food, the companythought of a plan to trick them into healthy eating without mucheffort. Since calories are the main cause of obesity, obese peoplewould enjoy their food while eating healthy at the same time.

The company has also partnered with the Americanheart association to increase accessibility to fruits and vegetables(McDonalds 4). The company has introduced the option of fruit as aside salad instead of French fries. In this plan, fast food loverswill get the chance to eat healthy even when they had not budgetedfor it.

In addition, the company has also changed itsadvertising strategy to support healthy eating. In its Happy Mealsmenu, the company has taken upon itself to promote water, milk andjuice only. Other beverages with high calories such as soda are notpromoted on the menu. The company also plans to increase theenthusiasm in fruit and vegetable in its advertisements that targetchildren. If children learn from an early age that eating healthy isimportant, then the next generation of adults would have lower ratesof obesity.

Recommendations

The company has not done enough to curb the risingnumbers of obesity especially among its customers. The measures takenare in the right direction, but their impact is like a drop in theocean. The company needs a comprehensive plan to fight againstobesity in the USA. Among the first recommendations would be to availfruit and vegetable in all its meals. Most people fail to eat freshgreens because they do not have the initiative to do so. However, ifthe company availed the commodities in all its meals, people wouldget the chance to eat healthy and take the initiative from there.

The company can also organize public campaigns tosensitize people on the causes and effects of obesity. The companycan organize a competition for its clients so that the winner getsmembership to a fitness club or gets a voucher for healthy food. Thisstep will motivate people to eat healthy. Eating healthy will seemfun and many people may opt to join in. This promotion campaignshould target children because they make the best targets for junkfood advertisements. When the competition succeeds, the company wouldhave impacted the society by encouraging the young ones to eathealthy.

Through the company’s CSR program, it canaddress poverty issues because poverty is a major contributor tounhealthy eating. The company can initiate community- based projectsthat revenue will act as source for the people in the community. Thecompany can also enhance education in the community. Education to thecommunity can be a good way of eliminating the public perception thatit does not care about their health. Such education should focus onhealthy habits and the importance of exercises. Most people do notknow the effects of junk food on their health. The company could holda public education program whereby some of its employees volunteer toteach school- children the effects of eating unhealthy.

Most of these plans are expenses to the company,but they could also act as a perfect advertising tool. The stepswould improve the image of the company with the consumers. Manypeople have blamed the company of taking advantage of people addictedto junk food. This plan will show to the whole world that McDonaldsis not after making profits alone. It also cares about the health ofits clients. Besides, most of these projects will fall under the CSRbudget and therefore will not adversely affect the profit margin ofthe company. In retrospect, many people will fall in love with thebrand due to its direct involvement in community projects. Anotheradvantage of this plan is that it will promote the sale of otherhealthy foods in the restaurant that are not as popular as processedfood. After a while, the company will be a hub for healthy eating andall Americans will be lining to eat at McDonalds.

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