published Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Price per pound

Ladies, do you want to have almost $5,000 more each year? Gents, would $2,600 more each year be of interest?

Television advertisements push all sorts of products to assist your efforts in dealing with it, your health care provider tells you to watch your cholesterol and blood sugar that affect it, and social pressures of all sorts cause it to be a focus. "It" is your weight, and it costs you more as "it" increases.

Despite decades of studies that demonstrate the unquestionably negative impact that overeating and a lack of exercise have on the body, contributing to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, cancer, and any number of ailments, Americans keep getting bigger and less healthy. So, perhaps better understanding how much we lose in wages and real cash will draw some attention.

George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services and Department of Health Policy published a study in September 2010 that analyzed the individual costs of being overweight and obese. The study reviewed data that observed the direct link between overweight and obese adults and illness, disability, lost wages and work absenteeism, and it broke down the information by gender.

Almost all research studies, physicians and insurance companies use the term "body mass index" when assessing an individual's weight. You can calculate your BMI by taking your weight in pounds, dividing it by your height in inches squared with that total multiplied by a constant factor of 703.

The George Washington University research validates the assessment that we make when simply looking around in a crowd: Almost 2 out of 3 people, more than 60 percent of the population, are overweight or obese. Our diet, our choice of a more sedentary lifestyle, and trends in the food industry that increase carbohydrates to displace fats now are the ingredients in a costly and deadly mix.

For those women who are simply overweight by a few pounds, you spend more than $524 annually compared to your same-gender counterparts with healthy BMI's, research shows. Mildly overweight men spend $432 more annually than your fit peers.

The obese, those with a body mass index that exceeds 30, have the greatest economic losses. The yearly cost of that obesity for women was shown to be $4,879, and it was $2,646 for an obese man.

When costs are annualized to include loss of life, the projections increase to $8,365 for obese women and $6,518 for obese men.

Peeling back the layers of these figures, the study showed that obese men and women have identical health cost increases every year of $1,474. However, the discrepancy in lost wages is vast. Obese women lose $1,855 in wages annually, with no measurable loss noted for men.

The moral to the story? We have to get our nation's collective weight back to normal to see a highly functioning workforce, a reduction in use and costs of our health care system and a population that leads a more fulfilling and active life.

This, however, is an individual decision. The only role of government is to assure a safe food supply, not to dictate every morsel of food placed in your mouth and monitor your activity level.

So, what's your decision?

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