Obesity drags on county's health

With low income, high-sugar diets
2011-05-02T11:00:00Z 2011-05-02T11:44:09Z Obesity drags on county's healthBy Jessie Higgins, The World Coos Bay World
May 02, 2011 11:00 am  • 

Coos County is chubby -- not huge, but a little fatter than the rest of Oregon.

Though the statistics are not as startling as the number of smokers or excessive drinkers here, Coos County has a relatively high incidence of obesity. The prevalence of obese people partly contributes to the county's poor health ranking.

The County Health Rankings, a project of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ranked Coos as one of the least healthy in the state again this year.

The question: Why so ill?

When it comes to obesity, this county suffers from the same basic problem facing the rest of the nation: sugar.

'We've taken the fiber out of our diets and loaded up on sugars and carbs," said Linda Hicks, patient and community education coordinator for Bay Area Hospital.

One possible explanation for Coos County's heft is low income. People here have less money to buy healthy foods and less education teaching them how to be healthy. Fast food and pre-packaged food promote weight gain.

So do sugar and carbs. The saliva in our mouths turns white flour into sugar before it even reaches our stomachs. Fruit juice has almost as much sugar as soft drinks, even if it has no sugar added.

'Drinking an eight-ounce glass of orange juice is the equivalent of eating four oranges," Hicks said.

Soft drinks might be the worst.

When you drink a soda, your blood sugar spikes. The body seeks water to clean it out. If the thirsty person turns to more soda, instead of water, the body becomes perpetually sugar-saturated.

'There is a higher correlation between soft drink consumption and obesity than any other single factor," Hicks said.

Hicks said many of these unhealthy choices come from ignorance. Many people just don't know the effects of soda or white flour.

Stress: The hidden culprit

You're already running late when you hit that last red light.

The car screeches to a halt. This mini-emergency isn't life-threatening, but your body can't tell the difference.

'Your liver thinks: 'Ah! A bear!'" Hicks said.

Whenever your body feels stress, it prepares for the worst. Your blood thickens so you won't bleed out when the bear mauls you.

Your immune system becomes 'hyper vigilant" to protect against disease and infection from any gaping wounds. Your liver dumps sugar into your system to power fighting or fleeing.

But people in our society are stressed by things such as traffic lights and deadlines and angry bosses, not wild ravenous bears. Furthermore, we are under some kind of stress almost constantly, Hicks said.

Over time this perpetual blood thickening, immune system hypervigilance and sugar dumping wear on the body. Some people end up with high blood pressure, others develop strong allergies or auto-immune diseases, and others develop diabetes.

Poverty creates intense stress, Hicks said. Poor adults, who already may choose lower-quality, processed food to save money, are almost continuously worried about finding or keeping work. Many of the jobs available here do not provide a family wage, which means workers are either underemployed or working multiple jobs.

'Our culture is all about productivity," Hicks said.

'Even if you've lost the love of your life, you're expected to be back to work in a few weeks."

Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222 ext. 240 or jhiggins@theworldlink.com.

Copyright 2015 Coos Bay World. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. Boo Baby
    Report Abuse
    Boo Baby - May 04, 2011 1:37 pm
    Can of Worms:

    I agree with Oliver! :-) Atta girl

    Teaching people what to eat doesn't erase their lazy habits. Coos Bay has been poor for a LONG time. The "new" economy is not nearly as detrimental as the slovenly attitude that has been fostered by the past three or so generations. People want to make excuses and be/have victims instead of realizing, hey...what you do IS who you are, so act right. Economy isn't failing Coos Bay. Her people are. It isn't responsible to stay here, bottom line.
  2. Can of Worms
    Report Abuse
    Can of Worms - May 04, 2011 12:04 pm
    Thanks Oliver Woods,I pinch my pennies and work hard to utilize my resources and it hurts seeing people on food stamps smoking, buying $5 coffees, getting their hair and nails done when I can't even send my son to school in a pair of pants without holes in the knees,I see nothing wrong with the occasional treat,we have to have something special here and there,I receive a little help from the system I pay into but I don't ask for handouts nor do I abuse the system, God is good to us and we get by
  3. oliver woods
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    oliver woods - May 03, 2011 2:34 pm
    Can of Worms

    You go, girl!!!
  4. Can of Worms
    Report Abuse
    Can of Worms - May 03, 2011 11:36 am
    My husband works hard, I have two jobs, we have a family of 6 and we do get 96 a month in food stamps, including that we have 296 a month for food AND supplies,including diapers, and we are making it, I can't count how many times I see people at the Newmark Center smoking with a dutch brothers cup in hand...finances have little to do with it,its a lifestyle,I buy whole foods and COOK,I may have to plan a little more but its possible to eat healthy on very little,don't buy frivolous things!
  5. Marymoonbeam
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    Marymoonbeam - May 03, 2011 11:19 am
    CB Lifer
    If the folks being referred to herein can afford drugs, cigarettes, booze, 64oz sugar laced soft drinks, and the like, they can certainly afford to ear healthy. It's not rocket science, or any more expensive, to choose something to eat that is healthy as opposed to making one obese, diabetic, etc. It's a life choice to be healthy regardless of one's financial state. And, according to my doc "obese is obese no matter what made you that way."
  6. CB Lifer
    Report Abuse
    CB Lifer - May 02, 2011 3:30 pm
    "People here have less money to buy healthy foods and less education teaching them how to be healthy." This is in part true, less money, less of the healthy stuff...but education has nothing to do with it! If you can't afford it, you can't afford it... And just because you are considered "obese" does NOT mean you are unhealthy! I for one, am considered "obese", but my Dr. says I am very healthy! A bad thyroid gland causes obesity also, no matter what I eat. So not all these facts, are facts....
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