The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the nation’s latest obesity figures this week. Between 2005 and 2007, obesity rates grew by a scant 1.7 percent. Scant? Yes. But still enough to galvanize the country’s health “experts,” who didn’t hesitate before placing the blame squarely on food. No surprise there. One official in Utah’s Health Department didn’t even try to mince words, telling The Salt Lake Tribune: “I think it has to do with less activity and probably more consumption of what they call energy-dense foods like pop and candy.”
The evidence, however, doesn’t sync with that view. Americans’ dietary habits haven’t really changed over the past few years — or, for that matter, over the past few decades. Fifty years ago, most of our grandparents ate a high-fat, high-cholesterol, high-sugar diets. And fried food was already a mainstay in the South.
The most radical transformations since then have been tied more closely to our feet than to our mouths. Just look at Colorado. In the CDC’s report, the Rocky Mountain State had the lowest obesity rate. And researchers (appropriately) credited those trim waistlines to the Coloradoans’ active lifestyles. But most of us aren’t moving that much. A recent study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that less than a third of U.S. teens are getting enough exercise to stay healthy. (They move, on average, a mere 35 minutes per day during weekends.)
It’s disappointing that so many commentators have jumped to the wrong conclusion about the cause of our extra pounds. Hard evidence continues to show that the road to a slimmer, healthier America runs through our walking shoes — not our refrigerators.