Where is the U.S. headed if 42% of us are obese by 2030?
May 8th, 2012
03:41 PM ET

Where is the U.S. headed if 42% of us are obese by 2030?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

A dramatic warning about just how fat Americans are getting: By 2030, 42% of people in the United States will be obese. Yes, 42%.

According to a new study, 11% of them will be severely obese, meaning that they are 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight.

Already in 2010, 36% of adults are obese, or roughly 30 pounds over a healthy weight, and 6% are severely obese.

If the obesity rate increases as predicted, it could mean we'd have more than 100 million obese people in the U.S. in just 18 years.

The numbers are staggering, and they come with a huge price tag.

This report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests the increase in obesity would cost an additional $550 billion from now until 2030 in medical expenditures.

It's estimated an obese person costs at least $1,400 more in medical expenses per year than someone who has a healthy weight.

Carrying around all that fat increases your risk for many other diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, several types of cancer and sleep apnea, not to mention a shorter life expectancy.

Obesity is one of the biggest reasons why health care spending has been skyrocketing in the last 20 years.

The report’s authors say we have an environment in the U.S. that promotes obesity, with fast-food chains, cheap junk food and technologies, like the Internet, that keep people sitting at home and at their offices all day long.

Meanwhile, this study doesn't even address children. Currently, one out of every three children in the United States is obese or overweight.

Here’s my question to you: Where is the U.S. headed if 42% of us are obese by 2030?

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.

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Filed under: Obesity • On Jack's radar
Why can't the U.S. make any progress in the fight against obesity?
January 18th, 2012
03:22 PM ET

Why can't the U.S. make any progress in the fight against obesity?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Americans aren't getting any fatter, but they're not getting any thinner either.

New government reports show that nearly 36% of U.S adults and 17% of children and teens are obese.

When you add in overweight Americans, more than 2/3 of adults and about 1/3 of children are either overweight or obese.

Although these rates are up dramatically from a decade ago, they have leveled off in the past few years.

However certain racial and ethnic groups are still seeing increases in obesity rates.

For example, 59% of black women and 45% of Mexican-American women are obese. Also - for children and teens - obesity rates are higher among Hispanics and blacks.

Health experts say that while overall obesity rates have stopped climbing, the best way to lower rates is to stop people from getting fat in the first place.

Obesity is a national epidemic contributing to a range of illnesses from joint damage to certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes.

Speaking of diabetes, we learned this week that cooking icon Paula Deen has Type 2 diabetes.

Deen is a well-known TV personality who is overweight herself and whose Southern recipes are full of fatty ingredients.

And isn't it interesting that after being diagnosed with the diabetes three years ago, Deen chose to tell the public about it only after making a deal with a Danish pharmaceutical company that makes an injectable diabetes medication?

Here’s my question to you: Why can't the U.S. make any progress in the fight against obesity?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


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Filed under: Obesity
Should smokers and fat people pay more for health care?
October 31st, 2011
12:26 PM ET

Should smokers and fat people pay more for health care?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Smokers and fat Americans could soon be paying a lot more for their health care.

Reuters reports a growing number of companies are raising health care costs for so-called unhealthy employees.

Translation: people who don't quit smoking, lose weight or lower their cholesterol.

In the past few years, many employers have been trying to get workers to voluntarily improve their health to help bring down soaring insurance costs. They've introduced weight loss programs or classes to help people stop smoking.

But not enough employees have signed up or improved their health. So instead, companies are now going to start making these employees pay more.

One recent survey shows the use of penalties is expected to climb next year to include almost 40% of large and medium-sized companies. That's up from 19% this year and only 8% in 2009.

Penalties include higher insurance premiums and deductibles for those who aren't participating in the company's health programs – and those engaged in risky health behavior, like smoking.

Wal-Mart, which insures more than 1 million people, is one such company. It says smokers consume about 25% more health care services than nonsmokers.

Starting next year, Wal-Mart will charge employees who smoke higher premiums, along with offering a free program to help them quit.

Critics worry these kinds of penalties will hurt poor people the most, since health care costs consume a bigger part of their income and they may not have as much access to gyms or fresh food.

Here's my question to you: Should smokers and fat people pay more for health care?

Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 4 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.

And we'd love to know where you're writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

Filed under: Health care • Obesity
Should there be a tax on foods high in saturated fats?
October 4th, 2011
04:00 PM ET

Should there be a tax on foods high in saturated fats?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Hold that cheeseburger.

Across the pond in Europe, Denmark is becoming the first country in the world to impose a so-called fat tax on foods high in saturated fats.

That includes everything from cheeseburgers and pizza to butter, milk, cheese and oils. Many Danes stocked up on these yummy groceries before the tax went into effect his weekend.

How much the "fat tax" is depends on how much saturated fat is in any given food, but it comes out to about $3 for every 2 pounds of saturated fat.

Officials say the goal is to increase the average life expectancy in Denmark, since saturated fats can cause heart disease and cancer.

Denmark has been a leading country when it comes to tougher policies on unhealthy foods. They have higher taxes on sodas, cigarettes and alcohol beyond what's required by the European Union. And they've increased taxes on ice cream, chocolate and sweets by a whopping 25%. Also, it's illegal for any food to have more than 2% trans fats.

Critics say there's a "Big Brother" aspect to all this and the government has no right telling them what they should - or shouldn't - eat.

Others suggest that any tax hikes on fatty or sugary foods should be accompanied by measures that make nutritious foods more affordable.

Whatever Denmark's approach, it works. Danes are downright skinny compared with Americans: In Denmark, only about 10% of the population is obese. Here in the U.S., one-third of all adults and nearly 1 in 5 children are obese. And as a nation, we get fatter every day. It's disgusting.

Plus, it's not like we couldn't use the extra tax revenue these days.

Here’s my question to you: Should there be a tax on foods high in saturated fats?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


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Filed under: Obesity • On Jack's radar
August 18th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

South Carolina to spend $2.4 million on weight loss surgeries for state workers

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

South Carolina is about to spend $2.4 million to pay for 100 obese state employees to have weight loss surgery.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/18/art.sc.jpg caption=""]
The state has approved a pilot program, which would put the money toward gastric bypass and lap-band surgeries. They can cost up to $24,000 each.

The state health plan will monitor these state workers - chosen first come, first serve - for 18 months to see if the plan is worth it.

The idea is South Carolina will save money in the long run by paying for these surgeries upfront. If these fat people will lose a lot of weight after the surgeries, it should alleviate other health issues often related to obesity - like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and sleep apnea. That in turn would hopefully drive down health care costs, prescription costs, etc.

Critics say special interest groups won out here over taxpayers. They suggest this money would be better spent elsewhere, considering the state is furloughing workers.

But one South Carolina surgeon says several other southeastern states - including North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia - cover weight loss surgeries for state workers.

He says in the long run, the state will save "a boatload of money."

They better hope so. You should pardon the expression, but in South Carolina obesity is huge. Nearly 63 percent of adults and 34 percent of children are overweight or obese; both those numbers are above the national averages.

Here’s my question to you: Is it a good idea for South Carolina to spend $2.4 million on weight loss surgeries for state workers?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Obesity • On Jack's radar
May 14th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Should govt. keep track of how fat our children are?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The government might soon be in charge of tracking how fat or skinny American children are.

Under the Healthy Choices Act - states would receive federal grants to track the body mass index of children ages two through 18 years old. The bill would require doctors in these states to collect this information and then pass it on to the state government... which would in turn pass it along to the feds.

The bill says that federal officials would use this data to identify obesity trends in different parts of the country... and how those trends change depending on gender and socioeconomic status.

Also, if a child's body mass index is greater than the 95th percentile, the bill requires the state to give the parents information on how to lower it... and on local child obesity programs.

One of the bill's sponsors - Democratic Congressman Ron Kind from Wisconsin - tells Cybercast news service that no one would be forced to come into their doctor to get their body mass index tested.

It would be taken when the child is at the doctor for a regular visit. The bill's sponsors also point out that any data collected will not include the patients' names.

This is all part of the larger measure that funds several programs and introduces new regulations meant to reduce obesity. Many would argue this is long-past due... with One-third of all U.S. children and two-thirds of all adults either obese or overweight.

Being fat also means being more likely to have everything from diabetes to heart disease to some kinds of cancer. And the costs of treating those things affect us all.

Here’s my question to you: Should the government start keeping track of how fat our children are?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Children • Obesity • On Jack's radar
April 21st, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Three-fourths of youth unfit for military service

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

With the U.S. fighting two wars and threats like a potentially nuclear-armed Iran on the horizon, there is a very scary truth that needs to be addressed.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/21/art.cafeteria.jpg caption=""]

Three-fourths of the young people between the ages of 17 and 24 are unfit for military service. It's a national disgrace.

There are a number of reasons for a lack of a sufficient pool of recruits for the military to draw from. These include factors like having a criminal record, not graduating from high school, or having health problems.

But the biggest reason is that a boatload of young people in this country are fat. In a report titled "Too Fat to Fight," a group of 130 retired military leaders says the top medical reason is young people are simply too heavy - and can't handle the physical requirements of being in the military.

One fourth of young Americans are just too fat to fight.

The report blames unhealthy food in school lunchrooms; and they're calling on Congress to pass a wide-ranging nutrition bill that would make school meals healthier. But the problem extends far beyond the school lunchroom.

We have become a sedentary society that doesn't exercise enough, spends way too much time in front of the TV or computer and exists on a diet of fast food and/or junk food. The price tag for that is sacrificing the future of the U.S. military.

The authors of this troubling report say all branches of the military now meet or exceed their recruitment requirements… but if these obesity trends don't change, they could wind up threatening our national security by the year 2030. That's less than 20 years away.

Here’s my question to you: What does it say about our country if three-fourths of our youth are unfit for military service?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Obesity • On Jack's radar • U.S. Army • US Military • US Obesity
February 9th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Why have we allowed 1/3 of children to become overweight?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The First Lady is calling on America to get moving - in order to fight childhood obesity. Michelle Obama kicked off a national effort at the White House today to try to reverse the growing epidemic.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/09/art.michelle.obesity.jpg caption="First Lady Michelle Obama looks on as Pres. Obama signs a memorandum on childhood obesity in the Oval Office. The measure is part of the First Lady's nationwide campaign to combat childhood obesity."]
And the numbers are just staggering: One-third of American children are overweight or obese. And one study shows the number of overweight children from ages six to 19 has tripled since 1970. These kids are at higher risk for diabetes and high blood pressure along with other ailments later in life.

The First Lady's initiative is called the Let's Move campaign, and is focused on what families, communities and the public and private sectors can do to reduce childhood obesity within a generation.

She's calling on everyone to get involved - from parents to teachers, doctors, coaches and children. Her plan covers everything from making healthier choices to getting kids to exercise more to providing healthier and affordable foods to inner cities.

Also, the administration is focusing on several steps that government and private companies can take, including:

  • Making package labels easier to read. The FDA is set to work on labels that would appear on the front of the package. And the American Beverage Association has agreed to put calorie labels on the front of its cans and on vending machines within two years.
  • The Obama administration wants to invest more money to make school lunches healthier; and major school food suppliers will have to decrease sugar, fat and salt while increasing whole grains and fruits and veggies in their meals.

Here’s my question to you: Why have we allowed one-third of our children to become overweight or obese?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Children • Obesity
September 14th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Should employer have to pay for employee's weight loss surgery?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

An Indiana pizza shop has to pay for weight loss surgery for a 340-pound employee. An appeals court upheld an earlier ruling that the employer must cover the surgery - which could cost as much as $25,000 - so that the man can have another surgery for a back injury he sustained while on the job.

The pizza shop had agreed to pay for the back surgery... but argued they shouldn't have to pay for the weight-loss operation because the man was already obese before he got injured.

But the court said the surgery should be covered because the man's weight and the accident combined to create a single injury.

And this isn't the first case of its kind...

Oregon's Supreme Court recently ruled that the state worker's compensation insurance had to pay for gastric bypass surgery in order for a man's knee replacement surgery to go smoothly.

In a nation where one-third of adults are obese, these cases could have a chilling effect on business. Employers could become wary of hiring fat people or those with other preexisting conditions that could make a workplace injury more likely.

Experts say although it's illegal for companies to refuse to hire an overweight person because of where they tip the scales, they could find other reasons not to hire them.

There were more than 220,000 obesity surgeries performed in the U.S. last year.

Here’s my question to you: Should an employer have to pay for an employee's weight loss surgery?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Health • Health care • Obesity
July 29th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Should fattening foods be taxed?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Slapping a tax on fattening foods could help pay for health care reform while also combating the nation's growing obesity epidemic. A new study by the non-partisan Urban Institute says a 10-percent tax on fatty foods could raise more than $500-billion over the next 10-years.

They liken it to the steep taxes on tobacco, which helped dramatically reduce the number of smokers in this country.

However, taxes alone won't do the job when it comes to battling obesity. The study also recommends banning advertising of fattening foods to children and better labeling these products.

Restaurants and beverage groups have already waged a multimillion-dollar media campaign against any new taxes on food or drinks. They say it's no time to add taxes on "the simple pleasures we all enjoy" and argue this tax would be unfair since it soaks the poor.

But the authors of the study say that as much as $180 billion of revenue raised could be used to subsidize poor families' purchase of fruits and vegetables; and to help make healthier foods available to them.

There's no question something has to be done. At the rate we're going, this study says 40-percent of adults will be obese by 2015. And it's costing us a fortune. Obesity-related issues like diabetes and high blood pressure cost more than $200 billion a year - half of which is paid by taxpayers, whether they're fat or not.

Here’s my question to you: Should fattening foods be taxed like tobacco?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Obesity • Taxes
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