Health Hub: Obesity in America

Regaining Health and Hope.

It’s no secret: Americans are getting bigger. A recent study revealed that nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults are now considered obese – the largest portion on record. This marks a whopping 30 percent increase from 1999–2000; since 1976–1980, the rate has tripled. What’s more, 18 percent of children are now obese, compared to just 5.5 percent 40 years ago.

Many significant health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and infertility are exacerbated by obesity. In turn, these problems contribute to other disease processes such as heart disease in what bariatric surgeon Dennis Smith, MD, calls “a cascading, domino effect.”

A Problem with Multiple Roots

But tackling obesity isn’t easy. Sometimes a person’s weight problems trace back to traumatic issues in their past. Cultural factors and genetic predispositions play a part – and so do evolving dietary trends. “The amount of sugar people consume has exploded in the past few decades due to low-fat diets that made people think it’s OK to eat carbs and sugars,” says Dr. Smith.

At the same time, our lives are more sedentary than ever and it’s hard to find time to cook while junk food is readily available.

Strategic Interventions

Though there’s no simple way to obliterate obesity, one place to start is with sustainable diets that work over the long term. “In our practice, we teach people to eat small, high-protein meals, probably more frequently than usual,” Dr. Smith explains. “We try to eliminate liquid calories and simple carbs. Simple carbs turn into sugar very rapidly in our bodies and end up making us hungry too soon after eating.” The idea is to set patients on a path of gradual weight loss, eating in a way that they can live with to lose weight sustainably.

Bariatric Surgery Option

For some, bariatric surgery helps to make anatomic and physiologic changes that control the hunger they are fighting as they try to lose weight. While few who qualify for surgical weight loss ever pursue it, the results can be profound, says Dr. Smith. “Not just medically, such as with resolution of diabetes or infertility, but also in terms of everyday things like being active with their kids.”

“I had a patient who was a year out from surgery come in with her daughter, about 10 years old. There was a moment when her daughter wrapped her arms around her, and the girl said it was the first time in her life she was able to do that. You can’t put a value on that. Those moments are priceless.”

Dennis Smith, MD, is a board-certified bariatric surgeon in Celebration. He performs a variety of weight-loss procedures at Florida Hospital to help patients regain their health, hope and quality of life. Learn more at


Florida Hospital Medical Group is the Orlando area’s most comprehensive multi-specialty medical group practice with more than 425 board-certified physicians and surgeons in more than 40 medical specialties.

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