Excess food intake will soon be a bigger killer of Americans than inhalation of tobacco, claim obesity docs in this week's edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association. And in a survey released last week, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education claim that most Americans greatly overestimate the amount of exercise they take each week. The 'get fit, not fat' message is likely to be ramped up by the US government.

Americans are getting fatter, fast

George W. Bush, current US president, is a regular runner. John Kerry, possibly the next US president if current polls hold true until November, is also a fitness freak, able to compete in marathon bicycle rides.

Both are skinny as rakes. Not so many of their fellow citizens: Americans are ballooning in size and the tidal wave of blubber is growing at a rate that even surprises obesity specialists.

Americans must cut down on fatty foods and get more exercise, say the obesity experts. Cycling is now being cited by more and more health professionals as one of the best ways to lose weight.

Smoking accounted for 435 000 deaths in America in 2000, with sedentary lifestyles blamed for 400 000 deaths in the same year. With Americans now smoking fewer fags, but eating more and exercising less, fat-related deaths will soon overtake tobacco-related deaths.

More than 30 percent of American adults, or 59 million people, were obese in 2000, far more than the 23 percent who were lard-arses five years earlier.

Ten percent of under-5s are now overweight, compared with 7 percent in the early 1990s. In total, nine million children are too fat.

The latest fat stats are contained in an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association, puyblished today. The survey joins a table-groaning pile of other blubber studies from around the world. The report uses just-released data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Between 1988 and 1994, 23 percent of adults surveyed were chubby and 56 percent were overweight but not yet obese. By 1999-2000, those numbers had risen to 30.5 percent and 64.5 percent. So, 129.6 million American adults, when asked ‘do you want to go super-size?’ say ‘yes, please.’

The same study reveals that the number of extremely obese Americans rose from 2.9 percent to 4.7 percent in the same time frame.

The medical bills and lost productivity that obesity causes cost $117 billion in 2000, estimates the US surgeon general.

Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institute for Health, said obesity was a "public health emergency"

Tommy Thompson, the US secretary of health and human services, said at a press conference on Tuesday:

"We’re just too darned fat."


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