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David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., is Director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition and Chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Nutrition and Obesity Training Program at UCLA. An expert in obesity issues, Dr. Heber was a lead investigator in clinical trials of Meridia© and has worked on a number of other pivotal research trials which evaluated the role of nutrition in cancer prevention.

Women and Obesity

Nutrition is a topic that is always of great interest to women, but most women are taken by surprise when I tell that I believe obesity is the #1 nutritional problem in the United States.

I have devoted my entire professional career - more than 25 years - to studying and reaching out to people who are battling the devastating impact of obesity and, unfortunately, more people today than ever before are overweight or obese.  The statistics are not new, but overwhelming nonetheless: 

  • 1 out of every 2 Americans are overweight
  • 1 out of 3 Americans are obese
  • 1 out of 2 people who walk into their doctors' offices are obese
  • In the next 10 years, 70 to 80 percent of all heart disease deaths will occur in people with Type II diabetes, a condition I call diabesity since Type II diabetes is so frequently associated with obesity

For women, the statistics are equally alarming.  The prevalence of obesity among women has increased by almost 15 percent in the last decade.   Nearly 50 percent of all Hispanic American and African American women are overweight.  The link between diabetes and obesity is particularly pronounced in women, and during the past 10 years there has been a 32 percent increase in women with diabetes.

Clearly, a change is needed in how the public - and how doctors - view and deal with obesity.  Doctors need to tell their patients that it is important for them to achieve and maintain healthy body weight for their health.  Patients need to talk to their doctors about their desire to gain control over this frustrating disease and about anti-obesity drugs that are safe and effective.

Women today burn the candle at both ends, whether they are out in the workforce or working full-time in the home.  After children arrive, it can be exceedingly difficult to take control and lose the extra pounds that result from a healthy pregnancy.  Then the rush of daily life can make healthy eating a difficult task.  Aging, too, presents its weight control issues and weight gain later in life can have serious implications.  Obese women and women who gained at lest 24 pounds in adulthood are at greater risk for stroke than thin women or those who stayed lean as adults, and women who put on weight early in life run a higher risk of developing breast cancer as they age.  Almost half of all breast cancers are diagnosed among obese women.

I want to strongly encourage you to take control of your weight and your health.  Do it something for yourself and do it today.  Talk to your doctor and get started on a path to a healthier you.

For more information on weight control, click here.

Created: 11/30/2000  -  David Heber, M.D., Ph.D.

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