By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Most of the world's extra body fat is attached to bodies living right here in the U.S.
New data from the UN and the World Health Organization shows that the entire adult global population is nearly 17 million tons overweight.
And researchers in London found that while the average global body weight is 137 pounds, the average weight in North America is 178 pounds.
In other words we are 41 pounds heavier on average than the rest of the world.
Not shocking since 2/3 of the U.S. is either overweight or obese. But wait, there's more:
While North America has only 6% of the world's population, it makes up a third of the world's weight due to obesity.
Compare that to Asia which has 61% of the world's population but only 13% of its weight due to obesity.
One researcher tells the BBC that if every country had the same fatness we have in the U.S. it would be like an extra billion people of average weight.
And scientists say this global fatness is a real concern. It's straining the world's food supply and environmental resources. Fatter people need more energy - and they eat more.
This means the competition for environmental resources isn't always about population growth, "when it comes down to it, it's not how many mouths there are to feed, it is how much flesh there is on the planet." And we've got plenty of flesh to spare here.
Experts suggest the best way to fight global fatness is programs that encourage more physical activity - like walking and cycling.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean if most of the world’s excess body fat is in the U.S.?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Can you afford to get old?
In case you weren't already worried about your retirement, now comes word that it's getting more expensive to get old.
The International Monetary Fund says people around the world are living three years longer than expected. That's increasing the cost of aging by 50% - and governments and pension funds aren't ready for it.
Reuters reports the IMF study, coming out next week, shows that longevity is a bigger risk than previously thought.
Researchers say that if everyone in 2050 lived three years longer than now expected, society would need extra resources "equal to 1 to 2% of GDP per year."
In the United States alone, an extra three years of life would add 9% to private pension plan liabilities.
Life expectancy in the United States is approximately 78.5 years. According to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. ranks 50th worldwide. At the top of the list is Monaco, where people live an average of almost 90 years, followed by countries like Macau, Japan and Singapore.
As medicine improves and standards of living go up in some of the developed countries, people continue to live longer. The IMF is calling on governments and the private sector to prepare now for those longer life spans.
Governments' options are fairly limited. Raise the retirement age, raise taxes to fund public pension plans, and lower benefits. A lot of countries are already considering doing all of this to tackle crippling national debts.
Another step governments could take would be to educate people on how to better prepare for their retirement.
Here’s my question to you: Can you afford to get old?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
What's wrong with this picture?
The United States ranks 28th in life expectancy, yet we pay more for health care than any other country in the industrialized world.
The 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is out with a stunning report.
It shows 27 nations live longer than we do - led by Japan. Yet Americans pay nearly $8,000 per person for health care each year. More than any other country in the report.
Only a handful of countries in this report have a lower life expectancy. They include Mexico, Estonia and Turkey.
Meanwhile, despite sky-high spending on health care in the U.S., Americans actually receive less care than other nations.
Our primary care system suffers from shortages of family doctors along with high rates of avoidable hospital admissions for common illnesses like asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure.
America also leads all nations when it comes to expensive medical procedures like knee replacements, MRIs and CT scans.
As for pharmaceuticals, they cost about 60% more in the U.S. than in most European countries.
There are some positives for the U.S. health care system here: We have among the world's highest survival rates for breast and colorectal cancer. Also, Americans generally receive good acute hospital care.
But overall there's no doubt our health care system is broken. And that along with questionable lifestyle choices means we're not living as long as we could.
Here’s my question to you: The U.S. is 28th in life expectancy. What’s killing America?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
So much for the golden years. A new survey shows one fourth, 25% of middle-class Americans, say they plan to delay retirement until at least 80.
That's two years longer than most people in this country live.
It's just another depressing effect of this economy - where unemployment, stock market swings and plunging home prices have taken a huge toll on many Americans' savings.
The Wells Fargo retirement survey shows on average, Americans have only saved 7% of the retirement money they hoped to put aside.
Survey respondents had a median savings of $25,000 while their median retirement savings goal was $350,000.
It gets worse.
About one-third of those surveyed in their 60s had saved less than $25,000 for retirement. Easy to see why retiring at the traditional 65 is a pipe dream for millions of Americans.
Experts say having large numbers of middle class Americans working past 65 raises many questions. Like, will people be physically and mentally able to work as they age? And what will it mean for young people entering the workforce?
Meanwhile another new study on the vanishing middle class helps explain why many Americans plan to work into their 80s.
Consider this: In 2007, 44% of families lived in middle class neighborhoods - that's down from 65% in 1970.
And almost a third of families lived in either rich or poor neighborhoods in 2007... that number is up from 15% in 1970.
In other words, the great middle class neighborhoods that used to define this country are disappearing.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when a quarter of middle class Americans plan to work until 80, longer than most people live?
A leading British scientist says the first person who will live to the age of 150 has already been born.
Doctor Aubrey De Grey, the chief scientist of a foundation dedicated to longevity research, also believes that the first person to live to be 1,000 years old could be born in the next two decades. You heard right. A thousand.
De Grey made these comments in an interview at Britain's Royal Institution's academy of science.
So far, the longest-living person in the world on record lived to age 122.
But Dr. De Grey says we have a "50/50 chance" of bringing aging under medical control within the next 25 years.
He believes that aging is really just the accumulation of molecular and cellular damage in the body over a lifetime...and that some day doctors will be able to undo this damage. We'll all just go to the doctor for "maintenance checks"– you know, like a tune up for your car. But these visits will include gene therapies, stem cell therapies, and immune stimulation.
De Grey does have his critics. In 2005, the MIT Technology Review Journal offered $20,000 to any molecular biologist who could prove Dr. De Grey's theories were so wrong they were not worthy of debate. But no one ever won that cash prize.
Here’s my question to you: Would you want to live to be 150 years old or even older?
The United States is actually in worse financial shape than Greece and other debt-laden European countries when you add in all of the money owed to cover future Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security obligations. That's what bond fund manager Bill Gross of Pimco told CNBC yesterday.
But talk of reforming these so-called entitlement programs terrifies most Americans, especially after many saw their life savings evaporate during the Great Recession and the value of the home plummet.
According to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a whole lot of Americans have not saved enough for retirement and are going to have to rely largely on Social Security for their incomes as they age. The study also predicts that many Americans will have to work longer than planned - and many may end up working well into their 70s and 80s to afford retirement.
It's a depressing thought whether you're approaching retirement age or just planning to one day be able to afford it.
Americans are also living longer, and as a result the cost and quality of the health care available to them becomes more important. Seventy-two percent of non-retired Americans surveyed say the cost of health care will determine when they retire, according to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index.
We likely have seen the end of the gold watch, generous pension and company-provided health care for life that was a part of many of the previous generation's retirement. The golden years for many are shaping up to be more like brass.
Here’s my question to you: How has the economy affected your plans to retire?
If you think talk on Capitol Hill over reducing our deficit and raising the debt ceiling has been ugly - just wait until the focus shifts to making cuts to Medicare or raising the retirement age for Social Security.
Long-term deficit reduction can't be achieved without reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and the politicians know that. But millions of Americans depend on these programs and, as the Baby Boomer population ages, tens of millions more will, too.
A new survey out from the AARP finds many Americans in retirement or close to retirement age won't ever recover financially from the so-called Great Recession. Record job losses, declining home prices, skyrocketing health care costs and investment portfolios rocked by stock market volatility have all played a role.
One in four Americans over the age of 50 says they have burned through all of their savings. More than half, or about 53 percent, say they are not confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.
And about half of those surveyed who are having problems taking care of their finances say they have delayed getting medical or dental care or even stopped taking medications because they simply can't afford to.
Of those surveyed who started to collect Social Security retirement benefits, more than two-thirds say they did so earlier than previously planned.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean that 25 percent of retirees in the U.S. say their savings are all gone?
(PHOTO CREDIT: THINKSTOCK)
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, the only certain things in life are death and taxes. Of course, one has always been a little easier to calculate than the other… until now perhaps.
A Spanish company has developed a blood test that it claims can give you a pretty good idea of how long you'll live.
The test, called Life Length, can allegedly convert your life expectancy to numbers, and will reportedly be available in Britain later this year according to the UK paper The Independent.
The simple blood test measures something on your chromosomes called telomeres which scientists say can help determine your biological age rather than chronological age. The shorter the telomeres are, the closer you are to death.
Researchers say the test can provide valuable information including a person's risk of illnesses such as heart disease, Alzheimer's and cancer.
Some scientists and medical ethicists have raised concerns that people who take the test will take on a fatalistic attitude and stray from healthy practices like eating right, exercising and quitting smoking. Critics also worry the information could be used by insurance companies as well as companies that could make and market fake anti-aging drugs and treatments.
But you can bet people will line up for the Life Length test as soon as it comes out. It will be sold over-the-counter in Britain for the equivalent of $700 U.S. dollars
Here’s my question to you: Would you want to know how long you will live?
(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)
As millions of Americans continue to suffer from the troubled economy, there are signs that things may be looking up. It's very slow going, but there are some glimmers of hope.
For millions of Americans it's about a job - and unemployment remains stubbornly high, at just under 10 percent.
But economists have a more optimistic outlook for 2011: They're predicting three percent growth in GDP next year. It's not a runaway train, but not terrible either compared to where we've been. Experts have also reduced the odds of a double-dip recession to only about 15 percent.
However, the Federal Reserve struck a cautious note on economic recovery yesterday, saying it is "continuing, though at a rate that has been insufficient to bring down unemployment."
The extension of the Bush tax cuts - which passed the Senate a few hours ago - will likely become law soon, as will the extension of unemployment benefits. These measures should bring added relief to nearly everyone.
As for government spending, there's a new sheriff in charge of the Congress.
Republicans are vowing to tackle spending next year after the tax cut extension goes through. It remains to be seen how serious they are about spending cuts - or if they too will continue to add to our $13-plus trillion national debt.
For investors, the stock market is behaving okay, and businesses have a lot of cash on hand. If they ever become convinced things are finally on the mend, they can start hiring and investing.
So how do you think all these ripples in the economy will affect you and your family?
Here’s my question to you: Do you expect to be better or worse off one year from now?
So much for the American dream….
A new poll shows that a majority of Americans are pessimistic about their children's future. More than half of those polled in the Bloomberg survey say they are "not confident" or only "somewhat confident" that their children will have a better life than they do.
This is a shocking statistic. For a very long time in this country - each generation has had the expectation that the next generation will have a better, easier, and more successful life than their own.
But the Great Recession may have brought all of this to a screeching halt.
One 65-year-old retiree from Massachusetts says of his three grown children, "I don't think they've got a chance," adding that he's "very angry at what's going on in this country."
Pluralities of people say they're not hopeful they'll have enough money in retirement, and expect they'll have to keep working to make up the difference. A whopping 85 percent say they've taken some steps to cut costs - from using coupons, to cutting a regular expenses like cable TV, telephone or internet service, to putting off a major purchase.
The outlook is bleak. A new survey of top economists has cut its growth forecasts for both this year and next.
They expect GDP to grow at a pace of 2.6 percent this year and next... that's down from the group's previous prediction of 3.2 percent.
They've also lowered their outlook for consumer spending - which makes up two-thirds of the economy - and expect this year's holiday sales to be "especially weak."
Here’s my question to you: How do you think your children's lives will compare to your own?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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