Dr. Colditz in the Journal of the American Medical Association in his June 2015 article has reported on his findings in looking at obesity from 2007-2012. The conclusion is that 40% of women and 30% of men are overweight. 35% of men and 36% of woman were obese. This study was intended to help prioritize targeting overweight and obesity as part of the national cost-effective prevention strategy.

Why is this a priority? The chemistry of obesity and being overweight is complicated and leads to most of our society’s chronic disease. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, joint problems, cancer, and even mental health conditions are just some of the chronic problems linked to extra weight. Treating these resultant conditions is costly. The concern is that we are treating symptoms and not causes. The expense is unsustainable.

We are not alone. This is a worldwide problem. More than 30% of Chinese are now overweight, nearly a third more than a decade ago. More Chinese can afford to buy meat so they are abandoning the soy-and-vegetable-based meals they used to eat. According to Zhu Li, a professor at Beijing’s China Agricultural University, “Eating meat products is mistaken for the lifestyle of the rich.”

Tufts University has studied sweet drinks and concluded that 184,000 deaths, 25,000 in the U.S. alone were tied to these sugary beverages. They analyzed dietary surveys from more than 600,000 people from 51 countries between 1980 and 2010. This was no easy task. All of the fatalities could be attributed to sugar-sweetened drinks, including fruit drinks, soda, iced teas, and sports drinks that deliver 50 calories or more per eight ounce serving.

We know there is a problem. Now is the time for action and leaders to lead. Something as simple as avoiding sugar filled drinks and drinking water is a first step. I recently was involved in a Jump Start Program where individuals were asked to eat a plant-based diet instead of the standard American diet. After a short ten days, great health benefits were noted. This is something anyone can do. Most people would try this for ten days if it would change a life.

From August 2013 to December 2014, Drug and medical device companies paid at least 3.53 billion to 681,432 U. S. doctors. These were fees for consulting, fees, speeches, travel, and meals. Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a Harvard Medical School professor, has suggested that these fees, “affect prescribing practices and physician behavior.” Why not take this money and use it for programs to promote drinking water instead of caloric filled beverages and encouraging trials of healthy eating like a Jump Start program (plantpurenation.com)?

As Dr. Colditz has pointed out, helping decrease obesity should be our number one health priority as a nation. Here are the two first steps. Give it a try.