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BOSTON -- Asked about the three most important reasons for the surge in obesity among Americans, respondents to the Oldways Quarterly Survey overwhelmingly cited a lack of exercise as the main cause for the fattening of America (71 percent).
The poor quality of food and the high prevalence of junk food came in second at 63 percent, followed by the quantity of food consumed by Americans (large portion sizes, too many calories) at 46 percent.
Results were released by Oldways Preservation Trust, the food issues think tank, from its Quarterly Survey of 2,550 food and health opinion leaders. The email survey was distributed early in 2003 and focused on causes and solutions of obesity. Respondents included physicians, dietitians, scientists, journalists, chefs, food industry executives, and food retailers, among others.
"It is highly significant that two out of three of these reasons are behaviors that individual Americans can directly control," says Sara Baer-Sinnott of Oldways. "By naming 'lack of exercise' as the number one cause of obesity, respondents signaled that individuals do indeed have control over their waistlines"
Similarly, portion size and quantity of food consumed are individual decisions. A quarter of respondents (24.5 percent) believe that the most important step the U.S. government can take to improve or solve the obesity crisis is a lifestyle education campaign.
Nutrition education for all ages was mentioned as the next most important step by 18.5 percent of those responding to the survey. Specific ideas for campaigns included: present unified nutrition information; support exercise through the workplace; and develop community-based nutrition and shopping classes. In addition, just over 10 percent of the respondents suggested tax incentives or health insurance credits for those who maintain a healthy weight.