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Obesity and Diabetes Epidemics Threaten Population

Where food is concerned, we live in an unfriendly society. Dr. Yi –Hao Yu, medical director of Greenwich Hospital ’s Weight Loss and Diabetes Cente r, says there is just too much food available, and our bodies are more than willing to comply with the constant bounty by consuming as much of it as possible.

The statistics back his contention. Americans are as fat as we have ever been and we are getting fatter. In fact, more than 30 percent of the U.S. population meets the criteria for obesity, says Dr. Yu, compared with 10-15 percent in the 1980s. And if we keep consuming at this alarming rate, Dr. Yu predicts that by 2050, half the population of the United States will be obese.

A person was traditionally considered obese if they were more than 20 percent over their ideal weight, which took into account height, age, sex and build. But the National Institutes of Health now defines obesity more precisely as a body mass index of 30 and above. A BMI of 30, for example, means a person is about 30 pounds overweight.

Unfortunately, says Dr. Yu, the obesity epidemic goes hand-in-hand with another one: diabetes . A “silent killer,” as Dr. Yu refers to it, diabetes affects some eight to ten percent of this country, but it also accounts for twice as many undiagnosed cases.

Type 2 diabetes (once known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes) is a chronic condition affecting the way sugar (glucose) -- the body's main source of fuel -- is metabolized. An estimated three out of five Americans with diabetes have one or more complications associated with it, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists . Over time, high blood glucose levels can cause damage to virtually every organ system: from the central nervous system, vision, cardiovascular, kidney, skin, sexual, teeth and gums, to musculoskeletal, cognitive and digestive systems.

Genetics play a confounding role in obesity, says Dr. Yu, as some people are born with a predisposition toward storing more energy – which can turn into fat – in their bodies. But environment is the more crucial component. Because caloric, unhealthy foods are more readily available and less expensive than healthful foods, says Weight Loss Center's director, Dr. Christopher Mosunic , the battle of the bulge is ongoing -- and that much more formidable.

This is the first in a series of collaborative articles and discussions between The Greenwich Hospital Weight Loss and Diabetes Center and Main Street Connect. The Weight Loss Center, which sees patients from around the Tri-state area, is an outpatient program that combines all medically sound weight-loss treatments under one roof, offering patients personalized attention from a team of specialists , including a cardiologist, culinary chef, dietitian, endocrinologist, exercise physiologist and psychologist . Dr. Mosunic ran his first practice in Bedford from 2005-8, and also oversaw the psychological component of Westchester Medical Group's weight loss program, in Harrison.

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