A Pervasive Disease Affecting All Ages

A Pervasive Disease Affecting All Ages

Obesity has become a pervasive disease affecting all ages, socioeconomic classes, and ethnicities [1]. Current data indicates that obesity is responsible for approximately 300,000 deaths per year [2] with a direct impact of approximately 70 billion dollars on healthcare costs [3]. Though the obesity crisis is clearly visible, the exact mechanisms or time periods underlying the development of obesity are poorly understood. Given the recent and rapid rise in obesity, it is not likely due to changes in genetics or other biological causes, but rather changes in the environment which ultimately lead to a positive energy balance and weight gain [1].

Within this environmental model, certain phases of the year may represent critical time points for the development of obesity. Winter months in particular affect body weight via changes in food intake, mood and physical activity [4-9]. Notably, caloric intake during the fall is higher than in the spring, with peak caloric intake occurring during the month of November [4,10]. Concomitantly, physical activity levels have been shown to decline during cold weather months due to harsher temperatures and shorter amounts of daylight, further contributing to an overall increased risk for obesity during the fall and winter seasons [4,11].

A second critical time point for obesity development occurs during the college years [12], when healthy (or unhealthy) lifestyles may be adopted and carried on throughout adulthood. Unfortunately, recent studies indicate most college students are failing to develop healthy nutritional and physical activity habits [13]. In 1999, Mokdad et al. examined all age cohorts and found 18 to 29 year olds and those with some college education to be a group with the greatest increase in obesity [1]. Additionally, physical activity levels decline as transitions are made from adolescence into adulthood [14,15].

It is commonly reported by the media that 5 pounds of body weight is gained during the...

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