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J Public Health Policy. 2004;25(3-4):353-66.

The obesity epidemic in the United States.

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Capacities Inc., Watertown, Massachusetts 02471, USA.


We describe the epidemic of obesity in the United States: escalating rates of obesity in both adults and children, and why these qualify as an epidemic; disparities in overweight and obesity by race/ethnicity and sex, and the staggering health and economic consequences of obesity. Physical activity contributes to the epidemic as explained by new patterns of physical activity in adults and children. Changing patterns of food consumption, such as rising carbohydrate intake--particularly in the form of soda and other foods containing high fructose corn syrup--also contribute to obesity. We present as a central concept, the food environment--the contexts within which food choices are made--and its contribution to food consumption: the abundance and ubiquity of certain types of foods over others; limited food choices available in certain settings, such as schools; the market economy of the United States that exposes individuals to many marketing/advertising strategies. Advertising tailored to children plays an important role.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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