Wednesday, December 15, 2004

It's Official - We're Killing Ourselves (and anyone who moves here)

For years, people have been saying that they are overweight because of their genetics. "All my family are big-boned!" or "I am built just like my parents!" Well, that might be partially true; I do believe that genetics plays a role in obesity. But I also believe that environment (what we eat, what (if anything) we do for exercise, etc.) always trumps nature (genetics). Now I have proof.

In the December 15, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) there is an article titled "Obesity Among US immigrant Subgroups by Duration of Residence" from Northwestern University, Chicago. The conclusions are:

"Among different immigrant groups, number of years of residence in the United States is associated with a higher BMI [a measure of obesity] beginning after 10 years. The prevalence of obesity among immigrants living in the U.S. for at least 15 years approached that of U.S.-born adults."

So, you may come here skinny, but we will fatten you up within 10 years! Now, if genetics were in control, immigrants from Africa, Asia or elsewhere should have the same incidence of obesity living in the good old U.S.A. as their non-immigrant countrymen. But, not so! Once you immigrate to the U.S. and start adopting the much-fabled U.S. lifestyle (you know, watching TV, eating fast food, stressing out, rushing to make schedules, etc.), you get fat just like the native born Americans.

It just goes to prove what I have preached to my patients for years. It is the lifestyle, silly rabbit! If we would stop eating fatty, fast foods (how's that for alliteration!) and get off our ever-expanding buttocks and exercise, we could reduce our rates of obesity. But, then, that would require some effort on our part, God Forbid! And, as I step on my soapbox again, that is not the American way! We want a pill or, if we must, surgery to overcome our laziness and poor eating habits. We don't want to actually have to do something to lose weight! That would require personal responsibility, self-control and discipline. Anything but that, Doc!

So, give us your tired, your downtrodden, your skinny people from anywhere in the world. American is the land of opportunity, dreams and obesity!

Maybe it's time we started expanding the Statue of Liberty to better reflect her age and nationality? Then as immigrants passed by Ellis Island, they could see what they are getting into!

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