Restaurants may be the gatekeepers to reduce obesity rates in America. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 78 million American adults are currently obese, and many of them have related conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes. Since the federal government has taken note of this epidemic, it's been working to regulate calories in fast-food places and other public establishments, but many restaurants have already taken the initiative.
Large chain restaurants have increasingly been offering low-calorie alternatives to accompany the regular menu, according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Researchers learned that many of the newer options had 60 calories fewer in 2013 when compared to food items from 2012. Shaving a few calories here and there can be a big push toward a healthier nation, which currently has more than 990,000 restaurants that rake in over $683 billion in sales, according to the National Restaurant Association.
All ages indulge
Johns Hopkins learned that 33 percent of young children, 41 percent of adolescents and 36 percent of adults eat at fast-food restaurants, which draws on the correlation between their food options and obesity in America. The impact could be huge, according to one of the doctors who conducted the study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"If the average number of calories consumed at each visit was reduced by approximately 60 calories – the average decline we observed in newly introduced menus in our study – the impact on obesity could be significant," said Sara N. Bleich, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School and lead author of the study.
A healthier America
Reducing obesity rates could lead to fewer heart attacks, strokes and other causes of death that are onset by an unhealthy diet and unmanaged weight. According to the American Heart Association, obesity can increase cholesterol, blood pressure and triglyceride levels. It can also cause gall stones, osteoarthritis and problems with respiration. A main reason that being overweight has such a widespread effect on the body is because the excessive weight affects blood circulation and can slow it down.
Larger than food
It's important to note that to combat obesity, a proper diet is crucial, but it's only half of the battle. People who want to lose weight and prevent disease also need to exercise regularly. The CDC also stated that less television watching can help curb obesity as well.
Other restaurants can help
While the issue will take a collaborative effort on many fronts, restaurants that become proactive about calorie intake and menu options will no doubt be a resource for reducing obesity rates in the country. Establishments that want to join in on the efforts should consider offering patrons more fruits and vegetables and fewer sugary foods and drinks, which the CDC suggested as a means to reduce obesity rates.
Regulation will arrive
The CDC also confirmed that an increase of initiatives and a community effort can make a lasting impact on obesity in America. Federal regulation of menu options is expected at some point in the near future, which could indicate that restaurants that are already helping out will be ahead of the curve and others will be forced to follow suit.
Make the difference
Perhaps places that offer low-calorie options now will be driven to go above and beyond by expanding those options or innovating in some other way to promote health and wellness. With so much influence for food intake in the country, restaurants have the power to make a positive impact on people's health.
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