You may not realize it, but America has been going down an unhealthy path. By 2030, 60% of the American population will either be obese or overweight. There are serious ramifications to this, such as the rising costs of healthcare and shortened life expectancy. In turn, I am beginning a series that looks to tackle this issue and bring this issue to light. My first interview is with Dana Hunnes, dietitian at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Jacob: What are the root causes of the obesity uprising? What are the health effects of obesity?
Dana: Getting to basics, the root cause is that we are simply eating more than we are burning off through exercise and/or leisure activity. There are myriad effects of obesity and its concurrent chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancers, to name a few. We are dying younger, we are dying sicker, and we are leading lower-quality lives that are far more expensive because of rising healthcare/sick-care costs (in a nutshell).
Jacob: Are food companies to blame for their massive budgets in advertising? Do we blame our government for being too passive towards what goes into our food?
Dana: I think there are many different factors that go into obesity. Yes, food companies are in part to blame because their goal is to make profits. They sell cheap foods that are bad for us and gain them a lot of money and followers. I believe food companies are to blame for advertising at children. Children do not have the mental capacity to decipher subversive and/or subliminal messaging designed to get them to eat more, especially if their favorite character is hyping up the food item. I have a five-year old son. I have taught him healthy nutrition from the beginning, so he can decipher what has too much sugar or foods that we shouldn't eat too much of, but not every child has a dietitian or a PhD for a mother (who has focused on some of these issues). Also, parents are not 100% to blame. We live in an era of decision fatigue. WE work hard, we have long hours, we make so many decisions in a day that sometimes saying no to a child who is requesting a food item is difficult. So, yes, in some ways, food companies are to blame. I do also believe that our government and the governmental organizations that are supposed to protect our health (FDA, USDA, CDC, etc.) are far too passive about what goes into our foods. Deregulation has been the norm for our current administration, while the previous administration tried to get healthier foods into schools (it was imperfect, but better than now). The current administration has made school lunches unhealthy again, and basically bows to the food companies, dairy industry, egg industry, meat industry, etc., allowing them to run the show.
Jacob: What ways can we curb and even reverse obesity rates?
Dana: With a multi-pronged approach. There probably needs to be some sort of regulation on the part of the government. There needs to be more educational campaigns, better outreach by public health industries, better access to primary care and prevention, and better insurance programs that will cover nutrition services and/or other services such as physical activity. There needs to be a role in local communities as well, to make outdoor spaces more walkable and safer. There are a lot of things that need to happen to curb/reverse obesity rates. Yes, people are ultimately responsible for what goes in their mouths and bodies, but there are many barriers (financial, institutional, governmental, local, etc.) that either help or hinder these choices.
Jacob: What role does parenting have in the epidemic regarding our children?
Dana: We are our children's first teachers and role models. If we don't display healthy relationships with food, we can't expect them to. So, parents definitely have a role, especially in the early years to give our children healthy choices that are low in salt, low in sugar, and as natural and healthful as possible.
Jacob: McDonalds has been notorious for their predatory advertising towards children regarding the Happy Meal, with publications like the Chicago Tribune publishing about their practices. What can be done about McDonalds and what can you get from this?
Dana: I think many companies have predatory advertising practices. I think there needs to be more regulations on what can be advertised to children and who can do it. I don’t think they will “police” themselves very well… Unless of course, they can find a way to boost their profits by changing their practices and advertising only their fruit bowls to children with their favorite Disney characters.
Jacob: Americans are snacking more than ever. Is this an alarming trend?
Dana: Yes, we live in a 24/7 food environment. Historically, our ancestors were not snacking all the time. They were gathering, possibly hunting, but most gathering, and being very active leaving little time to just sit and snack. This is definitely an alarming trend.
Jacob: Mental health, I.e. stress and depression, has also been a hot button issue in America. How is having a good diet linked to being in a good state of mental being?
Dana: I have seen associations with mental health and diet. Healthy diets may help improve mental health by making us feel better about ourselves in addition to feeling better by the healthful nutrients we are putting in our bodies. Depression has multiple causes, but there may be links to missing nutrients (micronutrients, vitamins/minerals), and/or unbalanced diets. Obesity also messes with our hormones and their natural homeostasis, which can affect our mental health, of course. So, there is decent evidence to support the link that healthy diets may improve overall wellbeing and self-efficacy and that a good wellbeing and self-efficacy may improve our diets.
Jacob: Southern and midwestern states are notorious for their high obesity rates. What is the cause of the high obesity rates in these regions? Is it based on their regional cuisine or is there something more? What can these regions do to curb this problem?
Dana: Unfortunately, many of these states also tend to have lower-income populations and minority populations which are more likely to have lower access to health services, more sedentary jobs, more jobs (longer working hours), lower levels of education, and food deserts. Of course, I am generalizing, but these are usually factors that contribute to higher obesity rates. Additionally, yes, regional cuisines can make a difference in obesity rates and southern cooking tends to be higher in fat, higher in salt, and higher in calories overall.
Jacob: Sugar: Surprisingly, this is the staple of American cuisine and is found almost everywhere. Why do food companies add sugar to their foods, even when they don’t need sugar (the same can be asked about salt)?
Dana: Food companies sell foods to make profits. They have food scientists on board coming up with flavor profiles that will be most pleasing to most people. This usually involves salt and sugar, especially when foods are lower in fat and so the sensations that we would get from fat have to be made up in other flavors, often sugar and salt. Also, sugar is a cheap filler in many foods, so even though a food may not need sugar, it is still a cheaper ingredient than perhaps something else.
Jacob: Are organic foods a better alternative?
Dana: Depends on the food. If it’s organic “oreo-like sandwich cookies”, then I’d say no. If it is organic zucchini vs. conventional, then the answer might be yes.
A top team loses its top quarterback and contenders prove their mettle. Who hit their mark and who missed the target?
Other Losers: Minnesota, Kansas State, Auburn's failed comeback attempt
College Football Playoff Four
The AFC playoff picture is crowded right now. Aside from the Dolphins, Jets, and Broncos, everyone is in the running for a playoff spot right now. Let's sort through this crowded field and see who has a legit case.
So I haven't gone through with the picks this week, but I do have a bonus pick lined up. This game is actually a ripe game for an upset, especially since New Orleans got embarrassed by the Falcons last week. Can Tampa Bay pull off an upset over the Saints?
This edition of Nostalgia Game Review takes us on a journey through the world of Mega Man 5. The game lets you play as Mega Man, of course. He tries to take down Proto Man, but the reality is that Dr. Wily is behind all the nefarious deeds (of course). It was released in December 1992 for the NES.
Beat is introduced in this game and is actually a vital part in beating Dr. Wily. Beat will hover around the enemy, pestering it until the enemy dies. You have to collect all eight letters to get Beat, though. Aside from that, the game plays the same as its predecessors.
This is actually a major downside of this game. Introducing Beat as the main change of the game doesn't lend much meat to the game. It just feels like another Mega Man game and an extension of the previous games. It feels like it's a mod, to say the least. Don't get me wrong. I like the game. I'm just disappointed that the game just offers the same stuff as its predecessors.
Still, if you like Mega Man and you love the NES series, this game will be to your liking. However, if you're Mega Man 5 to be more than just another Mega Man game, you will be disappointed.
The Pacific division was supposed to be all about the Warriors, Lakers, and Clippers this season. Teams studded with superstars that were supposed to be legitimate threats for the NBA title. It turns out that only one of those teams has fallen short of expectations (the Warriors), so which team looks like a playoff team in the Pacific?
The Phoenix Suns, who sit at 5-3 and are in the seventh spot in the Western Conference. It's WAAAAAAAAAY too early in the NBA season to be speculating about who's a playoff team and who isn't. After all, the Portland Trail Blazers are starting the season 3-6 and have a great team. But, the Suns have been impressive so far this season.
There have been some benefits coming the way of Phoenix. First, Ricky Rubio (8.1 APG, fifth in the NBA) has been great at running the floor for Phoenix. Rubio's veteran leadership has also helped develop the likes of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
The Suns have also been a great shooting team; they're second in the league in field goal percentage at 46.8%. They've also shot an effective three-pointer, making 37.3% of their three-point shots (seventh in the NBA). Seeing role players like Kelly Oubre come through for Phoenix has also been a boon.
Granted, there are some things the Suns can work on. For example, Phoenix can be more effective at attacking the boards (27th in the NBA in total rebounds with 43 per game). However, it seems the Suns are finally headed in the right direction. All those years of tanking and roaming the desert seem to have finally paid off... right?
Now, before you jump on me about this, hear me out. The Crimson Tide are getting shelled by Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers right now. The Tigers are dominating on offense, with Burrow only throwing four incomplete passes, and the Tide defense has looked battered. Right now, LSU is on the fast track to the playoff while Alabama will have some work to do.
Alabama can boost their resume with a win at Auburn. After all, that would be their best win on the schedule; Alabama's best win so far was a dominant road win at Texas A&M. However, the Aggies have fallen by the wayside, dulling Alabama's resume a bit. Alabama also won't get a chance to participate in the SEC Championship game. Granted, championship games don't factor into making the playoff (see Ohio State and Alabama). The Tide usually don't need the championship game to make the playoff. But, it does boost the case of a team looking to make the playoff.
Personally, I think Alabama should be fine. If Tua Tagovailoa improves his play and the Tide come back in the game and make it interesting, Alabama should be on the fast track to the playoff as well. However, they can't afford any more mistakes. Otherwise, they'll be washed away.
Two massive match-ups went down in the college football world and both have massive playoff implications. Who wasn't shaken nor stirred and who got their socks rocked off?
Other Losers: UCF, Arkansas, NC State
College Football Playoff Four
So I forgot to mention that there's a BIG college football game this week between Alabama and LSU. The Tigers are the second-ranked team in the nation while's Bama's number three. Who will win this colossal SEC West match-up and be on the fast track to winning the division and likely a playoff spot?
So the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite not having Ben Roethlisberger for the season, are 4-4 and actually in the playoff hunt. They face a Rams team that is not doing as well as last season. Los Angeles had some lucky bounces go their way last season, but said bounces aren't coming their way this season. Can the Steelers get a surprising win this week?
My life! Food, sports, school. It's what it is!