HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obesity Rates Increase: One in Three U.S. Citizens is Now Obese

The NY Times reports the disturbing news that the number of obese people in the U.S. has increased by an additional 2.4 milllion people in the past two years. Now, 72 million people in the U.S. are obese. This constitutes 26.7 percent of the population. The report speculates that this number is an underestimate as the rates "are based on a phone survey in which 400,000 participants were asked their weight and height instead of having it measured by someone else, and people have a notorious tendency to describe themselves as taller and lighter than they really are."

'Over the past several decades, obesity has increased faster than anyone could have imagined it would,' said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued a report on the prevalence of obesity. Obesity rates have doubled in adults and tripled in children in recent decades, Dr. Frieden said. 'If the numbers keep going up,' he added, 'more people will get sick and die from the complications of obesity, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.'

The report estimates the medical costs of obesity to be as high as $147 billion a year, and notes that 'past efforts and investments to prevent and control obesity have not been adequate.'

Researchers blame the usual suspects: too little exercise and too much of the wrong kind of food, which means not enough fruits and vegetables and too many high-calorie meals full of sugar and fat, like French fries, soda and other sweet drinks. Children do not get enough exercise during the school day; Dr. Frieden noted that even in gym classes, students are active for only about a third of the time.

August 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Should Fast Food Providers Serve Statins With High Fat Meals?

According to a paper published in the American Journal of Cardiology, for the same cost as the packet of catsup you get with your burger, a statin could be provided to you that would offset the increase in heart attack risk from eating a cheeseburger and a milkshake.  In a statement, the senior author of the paper, Dr Darrel Francis from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London explained:

Statins don't cut out all of the unhealthy effects of burgers and fries. It's better to avoid fatty food altogether. But we've worked out that in terms of your likelihood of having a heart attack, taking a statin can reduce your risk to more or less the same degree as a fast food meal increases it.

Statins reduce the amount of unhealthy "LDL" cholesterol in the blood. A wealth of trial data has proven them to be highly effective at lowering a person's heart attack risk. One statin, simvastatin, is already available in low doses (10mg) over the counter at pharmacies without a prescription in the UK. There is no statin available over the counter in the U.S.

Dr. Francis added that  

[i]t’s ironic that people are free to take as many unhealthy condiments in fast food outlets as they like, but statins, which are beneficial to heart health, have to be prescribed. 

It makes sense to make risk-reducing supplements available just as easily as the unhealthy condiments that are provided free of charge. It would cost less than 5 pence per customer - not much different to a sachet of ketchup. When people engage in risky behaviors like driving or smoking, they’re encouraged to take measures that minimize their risk, like wearing a seatbelt or choosing cigarettes with filters. Taking a statin is a rational way of lowering some of the risks of eating a fatty meal.'

Hat tip to Pharmalot for pointing out that five pence is worth pennies.

August 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)