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Nov 13, 2012 1:01 PM by Drew Trafton - Q2 News

A 'big' problem

BILLINGS- Obesity is going to be a ‘big' problem in Montana in the next twenty years if the rate continues on its projected path.

According to a report released by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which uses statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 24.6% of Montana's population is obese.

That rate is good enough to put Montana on the backburner of obesity in the United States, ranked 41st out of the 50 states.

However, if you turn the clock forward 20 years, the outlook isn't quite as rosy.
The projected obesity rate from the study shows that, by the year 2030, Montana could face an obesity rate of 53.6%.

Unfortunately, it's a disease which really doesn't have an easy fix.

"It's very complex," says Dr. Kathleen Baskett, M.D. of St. Vincent Healthcare's Weight Management Clinic in Billings. "There's no one answer, there's no miracle drug, there no miracle treatment."

The reason the disease is so complex is due to where it stems from-an ancient instinct buried deep within our past.

"We spent hundreds of thousands of generations being hunter-gatherers," said Dr. Christopher Sorli of the Billings Clinic Metabolism Center. "Your job, a thousand years ago, was to spend 12 hours a day gathering nuts and berries."

The result: our brains, physiologically, have set weight goals which make us want to constantly ingest calories for energy storage.

According to Sorli, our brains believe we should weigh our heaviest weights we've achieved as a means to
survival.

Our bodies will allow us to lose around 10% of that weight without a fight, but as soon as that weight come off-it's wages a battle to regain the missing pounds.

"They pick up that food now, and they say, 'I shouldn't eat it', but there's a signal from their brain to their bicep that contracts and goes in their mouth-- and we don't think you can control that," said Sorli.
"Literally, every dietary study that has ever been done has a very high failure rate."

Because of that battle, it is very difficult for adults to conquer obesity and many treatment options could be simply considered "damage control".

In fact, Sorli says the best age at which to nip obesity in the bud is between 4 and 13-years-old.

"Once that system is programmed in a 13-year-old, we can't reprogram it," says Sorli. "That child is going to have a 95% chance at battling their weight the rest of their life."

Baskett says that by the year 2015, she's seen projections that as many as half of all children in the United States will be considered obese.

The doctors suggest that the biggest factor when it comes to prevention is educational outreach.

And that, of course, starts at home.

"If you take your child by the hand and you go for that 45 minute walk with them as a family, you impact that child's future for the rest of their life," said Sorli.
And that impact, may give children a leg up in more than health.

Tomorrow, we take a look into the economic impact of obesity in Montana.

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