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Obesity quietly taking its toll

What Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society didn’t say the other day in the nation’s capital was the last straw.

Oh, the first part of what he said was great: Death rates from cancer continue to inch down in the United States.

Then he added that the progress may be hard to sustain because bad diets, lack of physical activity and obesity together wield “incredible forces against this decline in mortality,” warning that the trio may surpass tobacco as the leading cause of cancer.

But not once did he mention anything positive about the obesity caused by eating junk food and watching TV. What about the manufacturing jobs created by innovative entrepreneurs who saw the need for the extra-wide Big John Toilet Seat or for Golden Lift Chairs so powerful that with a touch of a button they can push a seated 300 or 500 pounder quickly to his feet?

Well, I visited Everything Medical, the largest medical supply store in Las Vegas, and owner Jeffrey Keleman told me at his West Charleston Boulevard location that the bariatric part of his business at his two outlets is booming. With obesity often causing incontinence, 4X diapers sell well. Golden Lift Chairs and the Big John Toilet Seats are valued as thrones by those on the heavier side. Masks for obstructive sleep apnea caused by being overweight are so common they now come in colors. Braces for joints that crumbled under excess weight are in demand. Walkers and scooters allowing aging heavyweights mobility are in vogue.

“Obesity is good for business,” Keleman said, noting that the condition has also helped diabetes and cholesterol drug makers, dialysis centers, bariatric surgeons and the fashion industry make fat profits.

Without obesity, the economy would be worse off, with many people forced to buy a Big Mac without fries and a drink.

What we are seeing in America with the triumph of obesity —- 70 percent of us are carrying far too much weight —- is capitalism at its best. And Brawley refuses to give kudos.

He doesn’t seem proud of how ever-expanding private fast food corporations make tasty, well-processed, addictive, low-priced, fattening food Americans love. And he isn’t proud of how we the people do what we are supposed to do —- consume.

We are great consumers, so good that businesses crop up or become innovative because of what we’ve become. Keleman showed me one device a business sells to help people too big to clean themselves after using the restroom. It allows them to reach that area without much strain. Talk about American ingenuity.

With greatness, of course, often comes trade-offs. While it’s true that by stuffing ourselves we Americans spend nearly $200 billion a year on obesity related illnesses and put ourselves more at risk for heart and kidney disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancers of the esophagus, breast, colon, rectum, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder and lining of the uterus, it’s also true that Americans show the world how lucky we are to live in a social system based on the principle of individual rights.

Nobody can stop us from our delicious hamburgers, yummy sodas, divine sundaes or scrumptious deep-fried Oreos. From sea to shining sea we can largely still walk with a Whopper in one hand and a Big Gulp in the other. While New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg succeeded in keeping citizens from buying huge drinks, most Americans would fight to the death over such an action, yelling, in effect, between gulps: “I’ll give you my Big Gulp when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

Yes, Americans make sacrifices for principle. Just as we accept the shooting deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children each year to uphold the right to bear arms, we realize it’s better to have our obese children suffer heart attacks and slip into diabetic comas at age 12 than to allow government to help protect us from ourselves.

God Bless America.

Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.

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