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Combating Nation's Obesity Problem Begins with Removing Barriers to Healthy Living, MU Expert Says

July 16, 2009

Story Contact:  Emily Smith, (573) 882-3346,
Christopher Hardin, Chair, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Experts agree that solutions are needed to address the nation's obesity problem. The adult obesity rate has reached 26.1 percent, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A University of Missouri nutrition expert says that a concerted effort is needed to remove barriers to healthy living and reverse current trends.

"The statistics are alarming, but not surprising," said Christopher Hardin, chair of the Nutrition and Exercise Physiology Department at MU. "There is no reason to believe that obesity rates will decline until our country makes a concentrated effort to address this issue - from the individual and community levels to the government and national levels."

The negative effects of the obesity trend are more apparent and will continue to worsen, Hardin says. An increased number of overweight and obese people will continue to decrease workplace productivity, increase health care costs and reduce quality of life. Health issues associated with the obesity problem include increased prevalence of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity-induced hypertension - in adults, teenagers and children.

"Fundamentally, our innate human behavior hasn't changed, but the landscape of our lives has, Hardin said. "There are multiple barriers to healthy living that need to be removed. We have to address this issue in several ways, by empowering individuals, removing obstacles to eating healthy and enacting policies to make healthier living easier. Everyone needs to take responsibility."

Hardin says barriers to healthy living include: more single-family households with working parents; increased stress and less time to exercise and prepare meals; fewer opportunities for physical activity; shorter lunch periods and recesses for kids; lingering poverty and an emphasis on cheap calories that is compounded by the weakened economy.

Hardin received a bachelor's degree from Cornell University and a doctorate in physiology and biophysics from the University of Cincinnati. He is a member of the American Physiological Society and the American Heart Association (AHA). In 2007, he was named the Chair of Nutrition & Exercise Physiology - a joint department in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, the School of Medicine and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at MU. He served as a reviewer for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the AHA, and is a guest reviewer for 40 different academic journals. His current research is funded by NIH and the AHA.