Lentis/Obesity and Diets of Economic Classes in the United States

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Obesity is defined as having a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 30 due to too much fat. [1] On average, an uninsured non-obese person spends $512 per year on medical costs, whereas as an uninsured obese person spends $3,271 per year.[2] Nationally, the total medical spending on obesity equals to $190 billion per year.[3] These costs have even surpassed the costs of smoking. (Smoking added 20% to average medical costs whereas obesity added 50%)[4]

In this chapter, we will further explore the economic issues of obesity by examining the correlation between diets of individuals from various economic classes and obesity rates within those classes. Note that the term diet refers to its medical definition, which is any food that is ingested, and not the mainstream definition of diet, which is the limitation of food ingestion for losing weight. Also note that we have delineated the economic classes as lower, middle, and upper class, but have not specifically limited them based on annual income or other such variable.

Average Food Expenses[edit]

Each month the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) puts out four food budgets: Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal Food Plans. Each plan or budget corresponds to different income levels; however, USDA does not specify the income brackets matching the plans. USDA does subjectively categorize the budgets by income while stating that the Thrifty Food Plan is used to determine food stamp allotments, the Low-Cost Food Plan is used by Bankruptcy Courts to determine food expenses allotments of bankrupt people, and the Liberal Food Plan is used by the Department of Defense to determine the Basic Allowance for Sustenance for service members.[6]

Graph [7]

A USDA study in 2000 reported that low-income groups tend to have lower quality diets [8], while a more recent study stated that there are no significant differences in diet quality between various income groups [9].

Obesity in the Economic Strata[edit]

It is generally thought that obesity and poverty have a positive correlation in America as Maheshwari’s research proved, but more recent studies point to an opposite trend. A recent study reported at the American Heart Association’s 45th Annual Conference showed that the richest Americans (those with an annual income of $60,000 or more) have the highest obesity growth rate from all the economic classes. Obesity is still most common in poor households, but the gap is decreasing.[10]

  1. Dugdale, DC; Vorvick, LJ; Zieve, D. Obesity. PubMed Health. May 12, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004552/
  2. Bengley, S. As America’s Waistline Expands, Costs Soar. Reuters. April 30, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/30/us-obesity-idUSBRE83T0C820120430
  3. Ilbid
  4. Ilbid
  5. Vorvick, LJ; Zieve, D. Body Mass Index. PubMed Health. July 23, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004463/
  6. The Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal Food Plans, 2007. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007. Retrieved from http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/MiscPubs/FoodPlans2007AdminReport.pdf
  7. Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, October 2012. United States Department of Agrculture. [Data Set]. Novemeber 2012. Retrieved from http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2012/CostofFoodOct2012.pdf
  8. Basiotis, P.P., Carlson, A., Gerrior, S.A., Juan, W.Y., & Lino, M. (Authors in alphabetical order.) (2002). The Healthy Eating Index: 1999-2000 (CNPP-12). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
  9. Diet Quality of Low-Income and Higher Income Americans in 2003-04 as Measured by the Healthy Eating Index-2005. United States Department of Agriculture. December 2008. Retrieved from http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/NutritionInsights/Insight42.pdf
  10. American Heart Association's 45th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, Washington, April 29-May 2, 2005. News release, American Heart Association. CDC.