Obesity and Malnutrition: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Over one-third of adults in the United States are obese, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Not only is obesity bad for your health, creating conditions that include stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, it is also extremely expensive.  It is estimated that medical costs for people who are obese are nearly $1,500 higher than people who are not obese. In 2008, the estimated annual cost of obesity was $147 billion in the United States.

Most people believe obesity is a result of overeating, but it is actually a combination of overeating and malnutrition.  The reason so many Americans are struggling with obesity is because the typical American diet is high in calories but low in nutrients.  Vitamins and minerals are necessary in keeping our metabolisms going and help keep the chemical reactions in our bodies running efficiently. These chemical reactions are responsible for regulating sugar and burning fat in our bodies. Most of the foods Americans consume are processed and full of high fructose corn syrup, refined flours and trans fats instead of beneficial nutrients, like vitamin C and omega-3 fats.

Some Americans do not have a choice but to consume unhealthy foods because they are living in what are known as “food deserts.” Food deserts are areas without access to fresh, healthy food. People in these areas might only have access to food through fast food restaurants and convenience stores. Limited access to nutrient-dense foods leads to higher levels of obesity in these areas. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, 23.5 million people live in food deserts and 13.5 million of these people are low-income.

If you do have access to nutritious foods, here are some foods to include in your diet to assure you stay at a healthy weight:

  • Plant-based foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, fiber, and essential fatty acids, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
  • Plant-based fats, like extra-virgin olive oil, flax, and nuts.
  • Lean animal protein, like salmon, trout, wild elk, and deer.


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works