Big Food, Big Money, Big
KATHERINE BATTLE HORGEN
Despite the booming diet and fitness industries, which in the United States alone generate over $33 billion annually,1 the prevalence of obesity has grown in every segment of the population.2 Nearly one third of American adults are classified as obese—up from 23 percent in 19943—and almost two thirds are overweight.4 While this statistic is alarming in its own right, childhood obesity is increasing at twice the rate of adult obesity.5 Over 10 percent of two- to fiveyear-olds (up from 7 percent in 1994),6 and over 15 percent of children ages six to nineteen, are overweight.7 An additional 14 percent are on the cusp of becoming overweight.8 The proportion of overweight six- to nineteen-year-olds has tripled since 1980.
Obesity-related deaths total approximately 325,000 per year in the United States and—at the current rate at which the obesity epidemic is growing—-will soon surpass tobacco-related deaths.9 It is estimated that obesity costs the United States nearly $100 billion dollars annually in direct and indirect healthcare costs.10
A range of medical conditions that until recently were rarely seen in childhood are now becoming commonplace among obese children. As reported in Food Fight, which I co-authored with psychologist Kelly Brownell, one of the most serious consequences of obesity in childhood is [the clustering of risk factors for heart