Obesity in America: The Nation’s Second Costliest ‘Preventable’ Problem


Among the most costly and preventable problems, obesity in America ranks second, just behind our love for expensive war, finds a recent report conducted by consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.

The group’s aim for the report and accompanying graphic (below) was to put numbers to various social problems like smoking, alcoholism and obesity, which can be prevented and avoided.

Data was obtained from the World Health Organization Global Burden of Disease database, “which quantifies the number of productive years of human life lost due to early death and disease,” reports the Washington Post.

According to the report, the U.S. spent $663 billion on obesity in 2012, the equivalent of 4.1 percent of the GDP.

And while armed violence is a bigger threat in Brazil and Morocco, and cigarettes are costing more in France, Japan, Indonesia and the U.K, obesity is still a massive global problem. “[M]ore than 2.1 billion people, or nearly 30% of the global population, are overweight or obese,” reports the Economist. “Excess weight leads to about 5% of worldwide deaths. On current trends, almost half of the world’s adults will be fat by 2030.”

The report also looked at various global measures of controlling obesity in America and around the world. “None alone could do much, it concludes, but all 44 together could mean about a fifth of overweight people achieving a reasonable waistline within five to ten years,” reports the Economist.

Efforts range from making healthy options more widely available while limiting poor food choices, but the report found that the most effective choices would include implementing smaller portion sizes at restaurants and in packaged food items, while also improving the quality of the ingredients. “But leaving it to individuals to slim down through dieting and exercise without any such help,” the Economist reported, “consistently fails.”

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Image: Jason Tessier