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Obesity Twice as Costly as Medicare

A study found that obesity cost Australians $21 billion in 2005, going to direct spending, disability, and premature death - an amount double the national expenditure on Medicare.

The study found the "burden of disease" to cause the heaviest losses - $17.2 billion - including loss of well-being and premature death.

Of the $3.77 billion in direct costs for health treatments and lost productivity, a full 37% was borne by the Australian government, with 29% falling on the obese individuals, and 16.4% on family and friends.

Links between obesity disorders such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease are well documented. And recently, a study at the Toulouse University Hospital suggested that obesity can cause brain cell damage and lower performance on cognitive tests. The lead researcher, Dr. Maxime Court explained that intelligence loss due to obesity could be cuased by fat cells secreting hormones that can damage nerve cells, calling it the "Homer Simpson effect."

With all these health risks, huge costs to government, individuals and families, and an ever-increasing number of people becoming overweight and obese, the question of how to manage this forthcoming crisis remains.

To which I'd counter with another question - how about good old-fashioned diet and exercise?

Guidelines for good nutrition and improving your diet are easy to find. And you don't have to be a gym member to stay fit. According to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, people who cycle or walk on community trails are more than twice as likely to get the recommended amount of daily exercise.

Even non-trail users seem to be appreciative of trails and parks - with 44 percent supportive of building more trails, and 36 percent willing to pay more taxes to finance them.

Given that these trails seem to enjoy public support and are easy to build within communities, they "could potentially be a cost-effective public health initiative," said John Librett, a health scientist from the University of Utah.

Noted the executive director of Diabetes Austrialia, Brian Conway:
"The burden is falling on … the whole of society, so it truly behooves the individual and the family to work at how they can improve their eating and exercise."
I couldn't agree more.

Australian Senator Guy Barnett framed the issue in starker terms,
"[Obesity] is increasing at significant levels. If nothing is done we will face a health crisis like we've never seen before."
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