A recent study predicts that the effects of increasing obesity in the US are forecast to outweigh any benefits from continued reductions in smoking rates over the next decade.

The major cause of the obesity epidemic is not hard to identity, it is the eating of a poor diet - based on the eating and drinking of sugar-laden, highly processed, and usually artificially-flavored and colored, junk foods. Another significant factor contributing to rising obesity levels is the lack of exercise and the sedentary lifestyle practiced by many. School physical activities are being slashed due to lack of funding, and at home children often spend their free time on the computer playing games or watching movies and don’t develop the exercise habit in their formative years. As a result they will likely end up becoming sedentary adults. Often these two factors go together, i.e., children and adults sit in front of the TV or computer while consuming copious quantities of unhealthy foods; and we wonder why there is an obesity epidemic? It is not rocket science, poor diet and lack of exercise are the two main causes of obesity, and the solution is is to be found in better diets and regular exercise.

The obesity epidemic needs to be addressed by major education efforts, the making available of healthier choices in all food stores (not just natural foods stores), school cafeterias, vending machines, etc. Great tasting healthy foods exist; they simply need to be made more readily available and promoted. Gradually people’s palates will adjust to a less sugary, salty and processed food taste.

The current medical cost of treating obesity related disease is estimated at 10% of total annual medical spending, or $147 billion. Incorporating more school exercise, providing healthier food choices, and increased education efforts about nutrition and physical activity will help significantly cut the cost of treating obesity. The money saved on treating obesity related disease could be used to help provide medical insurance for all.

The current debate on health care does not address solutions to the cause of disease, in fact, that is not even discussed, the debate is solely about how to give everyone the opportunity to get medical treatment for disease. This is a good thing, but how about we make it so less people get disease, that would be a better goal, and an achievable one.