Nearly two-thirds of adults overweight

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – The freshman 15 has made its way to Congress. However, this freshman is not in college yet, he is just about to have his 16th birthday.

According to the U.S. Department of Health, over 60 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. However, one senator from Iowa is trying to implement “wellness policies” in local schools to prevent this deadly trend from graduating past puberty.

On March 15, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), stressed the need to improve students overall health and wellness with the implementation of a new provision about “wellness policies” for integration into the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, which was signed into law last June.

The new provision will stress the need for a commitment to improved nutrition and physical activity. This provision comes out right many fast food chains have decided to ignore diet trends and unveil new food options, such as Burger King’s recent creation of the Enormous Omelet Sandwich, weighing in at 730 calories with 42 grams of fat.

“If we want to ensure that our children grow up to live healthy, productive lives and cut their risk of chronic, and often dangerous, medical conditions, we have to teach them the value of good diet and exercise now,” Harkin said in a release.

According to the U.S. Department of Health, 15 percent of U.S. children and teenagers are overweight, which is triple the rate of 35 years ago and a higher percentage than in any other industrialized country. There have been over 300,000 deaths each year in the United States associated with obesity. The economic cost of obesity in the United States was about $117 billion in 2000.

As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Harkin has been an advocate for the overall health of Americans with his jurisdiction over federal nutrition programs.

“Our schools must be the starting place for promoting better diets and physical activity and preventing obesity and other avoidable health problems,” Harkin said in a release.

Overweight and obesity are associated with heart disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, stroke, arthritis, breathing problems and psychological disorders, such as depression.

“Teaching kids to reach for an apple instead of a candy bar is a good place to start. I hope schools, parents and communities seize on this opportunity to transform the way students think about diets and exercise,” he said.

Studies have found major shortcomings and imbalances in the typical diets of American children and a lack of adequate physical activity. Harkin’s provision plans to make the school districts participating in federal nutrition programs to develop local wellness policies to improve students nutrition and health.

The local wellness policy provision means that schools must formulate policies and create goals for physical and nutritional education. The schools must also set guidelines for the sale and availability of all foods at school, from snack bars to a la carte lines.

According to a joint report by the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Service, the average American female aged 19-50 requires 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day depending on size and activity level.

For men in the same ages, it’s about 2,200 to 3,000 calories. With meals like Burger King’s Enormous Omelet Sandwich, and Hardee’s “Monster Thickburger,” (1,400 calories/107 grams of fat), one meal would fulfills almost all the calories a person needs in one day, without the appropriate nutrition.

“It [the Enormous Omelet Sandwich] is designed for people who like to start the day with a hearty breakfast,” said Denny Post, the chief product officer at Burger King, to CNN Money.

In the 108th Congress, Harkin additionally introduced the Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention America Act of 2004 to pursue comprehensive health promotion and obesity prevention. He plans to re-introduce similar legislation in this new Congress.

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