The number of Americans considered obese is expected to rise from the current 34 percent to 42 percent by the year 2030, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and discussed at Monday's "Weight of the Nation" conference in Washington. Diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease, and other obesity-related ailments account for countless premature deaths and as much as 18 percent of the $2.6 trillion national cost of medical care.
The leading causes of obesity are consumption of fat-laden meat and dairy products and lack of exercise. This is particularly critical during childhood years, when lifestyle habits become lifelong addictions.
A five-year Oxford University study of 22,000 people, published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2006, found that those on a vegetarian or vegan diet gained the least weight. A review of 87 studies in Nutrition Reviews concluded that a vegetarian diet is highly effective for weight loss.
The time has come to replace meat and dairy products in our diet with wholesome grains, vegetables, and fruits and to undertake a regular exercise program. Parents should insist on healthy school lunch choices and set a good example at their own dinner table.