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Am J Crit Care. 2003 Mar;12(2):167-70.

Obesity and the metabolic syndrome.

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Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing, Boca Raton, Fla., USA.


The prevalence of marked obesity is increasing rapidly among adults and has more than doubled in 10 years. Sixty-one percent of the adult population of the United States is overweight or obese. Americans are the fattest people on earth. Paradoxically these increases in the numbers of persons who are obese or overweight have occurred during recent years when Americans have been preoccupied with numerous dietary programs, diet products, weight control, health clubs, home exercise equipment, and physical fitness videos, each "guaranteed" to bring rapid results. Overweight and obesity are also world problems. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 billion people around the world are now overweight or obese. Westernization of diets has been part of the problem. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are being replaced by readily accessible foods high in saturated fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. Since class 3 obesity (morbid or extreme obesity) is associated with the most severe health complications, the incidence of hypertension, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and peripheral vascular disease will increase substantially in the future. Recently, obesity alone has been implicated in the development of cardiac hypertrophy and CHF. The metabolic syndrome associated with abdominal obesity, which includes insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and elevated CRP levels, identifies subjects who have an increase in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Twenty to 25% of the adult population in the United States have the metabolic syndrome, and in some older groups this prevalence approaches 50%. The prevalence of overweight children in the United States has also been increasing dramatically, especially among non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican-American adolescents. Overweight children usually become overweight adults. Atherosclerosis begins in childhood. The degree of atherosclerotic changes in children and young adults can be correlated with the presence of the same risk factors seen in adults. As health providers, our direction is obvious!

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