In terms of its prevalence, obesity is the leading disease in the United States. There is no universally accepted standard for obesity, defined generally as an excess of adipose tissue, but a common rule of thumb classifies people who are more than 20 percent above their desirable weight as obese. By this measure, 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women in America are obese. Although studies show that few of these people will ever recover fully and permanently from the disease, the incidence of obesity in future generations can be reduced.
Adipose tissue is a triumph of evolution. Fat yields 9 calories per gram, while protein, like carbohydrates, yields only 4 calories per gram. Fat also contains much less water than protein does. Therefore, fat is much more efficient for storing excess energy than is protein. Primitive humans, with uncertain food sources, had a great need for excess fat, and their bodies adapted accordingly. Modern humans, with a predictable food supply and a sedentary life-style, are burdened by this vestige of evolution. Although they need some adipose tissue to provide insulation and protect internal organs from injury, modern humans need much less than their primitive ancestors did.
In an attempt to shed excess adipose tissue, many Americans turn from one fad diet to another, and a billion-dollar diet industry has grown up to aid them in their efforts. Nevertheless, the five-year cure rate for obesity is very low. In fact, by comparison, cancer is more curable. The reasons for this are psychological as well as physiological.
From a physical standpoint, losing a pound or two a week for a few weeks is not difficult because most of the loss is in the form of protein and water, and protein carries four times its weight in water. However, protein is also the only source of nitrogen in the body, and when the body loses too much nitrogen, it acts to correct the imbalance by excreting less nitrogen than it takes in. Hence beyond a certain point additional weight loss must come from adipose tissue, which, because of its compactness, takes longer to shed. The body’s tendency to return to nitrogen balance and to protect its energy reserves can be so strong that dieters may stop losing or even gain weight while still expending more calories than they ingest. As a result, they frequently suffer not only from hunger, weakness, and a decreased metabolic rate, but also from depression and inactivity, all of which lead them to abandon their diets. Probably because of numerous psychological factors as well as physiological factors such as increased lipid synthesis, they then tend to regain weight rapidly.
While vigorous attempts to reduce obesity in America should be aimed at all affected, the most successful efforts are likely to be those directed toward children. If the advertising and food industries stop trying to sell high-calorie, nutritionally deficient food to children, and if parents understand that the feeding patterns they impose on their children can determine the adolescent and adult eating habits those children will develop, the future generation may not be as fat as ours is.
1. The primary purpose of the passage is to
(A) explain why prevention is the best defense against obesity
(B) criticize the food and advertising industries for encouraging bad eating habits and thus contributing to the prevalence of obesity in the United States
(C) recruit volunteers for a national crusade against obesity
(D) discourage dependency on fad diets as a method for losing weight
(E) argue that obesity is a genetic disorder that is virtually impossible to cure
2. The author mentions that “cancer is more curable” (line 27) than obesity in order to
(A) underscore the point that obesity is the leading disease in the United States
(B) support the conclusion that it is easier to keep people from becoming obese than it is to cure them once they are
(C) discourage obese people from trying to lose weight
(D) demonstrate by analogy that more money should be spent on obesity research
(E) refute the contention that the causes of obesity are purely physiological
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