EBM and Clinical Support Librarians@UCHC

A blog for medical students, faculty and librarians about their use of evidence based medicine, clinical literature, Web 2.0, sources and search strategies

News, Public Health, Epidemiology: Nutrition versus Food: Too Much or Not Enough?

This world is divided in many ways:  people who grew up around snow, people who have never even seen snow… left-handed knitters with curly hair versus balding right-handed crocheters, those who love the NY Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox, blue- or brown- or green-eyed people, cat-lovers versus dog-lovers, strict vegans versus fans of potatoes and red-meat. Those who can drive a car with 5-speed manual shift with gusto versus anyone who can’t.

There are more basic human divisions.  Those who have a great appetite and enjoy their food, including those with the means to buy (or store) all the food they could need or want.  Those with metabolic or systemic illnesses with access to lots of food but who lack the ability to chew or swallow or those who can eat but not digest their food.  Those who because of illness, medical interventions, depression or fate have lost their appetite, their sense of smell or taste, and subsequently, their interest in food.  Those in the world who, because of geographic region or socio-economic status, fail to grow up strong or thrive over the long-term due to inadequate food supplies during gestation, infancy or childhood.

Several big news item this week highlight the cumulative effects or outcomes produced by this essential element required by us all: nutrition over the lifespan (or, too much food, the wrong kind of food, food which has contaminants or toxins in it, or a general chronic scarcity of adequate nutrition).

In September 2009, The Obesity Society released a brief report on “Obesity Driving U.S. Healthcare to the Tipping Point” which recommended “four targeted interventions for effective healthcare reform”.  Below is an excerpt from the press release, which provides links to some troubling health statistics:

More than one-third of U.S. adults—over 72 million people—and 16 percent of U.S. children are now estimated to be overweight or obese.1 . Obesity and overweight are associated with several chronic health risks and conditions, including: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, some types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and gallbladder disease.2 . Furthermore, the medical costs of obesity are now estimated at more than $147 billion US dollars per year.3

Source Credit: The Obesity Society, at: http://www.obesity.org/news/pr_09082009.pdf – All rights reserved – Copyright 2009

Contrast the troubling statistics cited above with a very different set of statistics released this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS) on the incidence of Household Food Security in the United States, 2008 (ERS Report #83).   Following is a table from this 66-page report (available online at no cost):

Image/Data: Link to http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/insecurity_d.html – All rights reserved – Copyright 2009

Next:  Published in mid-2009, a new report assesses a variety of public health measures or health outcomes for U.S. populations listed by state (including food availability and nutritional intake).  Produced cooperatively by staff from the American Public Health Association, Partnership for Prevention and the United Health Foundation, this is the 20th edition of  “America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities™”.  The 116-page report provides a historical and comprehensive view of the health of Americans, including annual rankings of each U.S. state or territory, based on data taken from 22 individual measures.  It is free, online, at this link.

There is a supplemental page from the report, about Costs of Obesity.  Data gathered in 2008 showed populations from the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were expected to incur the “lowest expenditures in Adult Obesity-Attributable Health Care Spending” over a ten-year reference range (a screenshot of Table 2 shown below):

Image/Data: Link to http://www.americashealthrankings.org/2009/spotlight/Cost.aspx – All rights reserved – Copyright 2009

Finally:  a conference about global food security was held in Rome this week. The World Summit on Food Security was sponsored by the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (Nov 16-19 2009).  One of the themes:  in 2009,  1 billion people worldwide live in a state of chronic hunger.


For more information about available U.S. government programs about nutrition, food assistance programs (or links to other reports on U.S. food insecurity data), please visit this link on Nutrition.gov.

And if you’re of such a mind, please take the time this year to donate goods or volunteer to work at a local food bank or soup kitchen in advance of the up-coming holiday season.  There are so many families in need.

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