by ALEX P. Vidal
HOLLYWOOD, California — We are only in November but Christmas season is already being felt in every nook and cranny here in the United States. Malls have displayed Christmas decors, toys and other items for Yuletide season. FM stations are playing 99% Christmas songs. Everywhere you can bump into Santa Claus — men and women civilian "Santa Clauses." No need to elaborate.
There were recent studies made that Santa Claus may have a defect in a particular gene. Because a gene is disrupted by a "spelling error" in his DNA, "Santa has a propensity to pile on his pounds," observes Roger Highfield, science editor of The Daily Telegraph. Indeed, there is strong evidence that he also may have suffered from diabetes.
Highfield observes in his book, The Physics of Christmas, that "despite our image-conscious society, Santa’s huge stomach is one trait that amazingly gets little attention."
"Generations of children have asked how he manage to squeeze down chimneys. But few if any have asked the more obvious question: why is Santa so fat? After all, if he lost a few pounds, surely his job would be that much easier," stresses Highfield.
According to him, a thinned-down Santa also would provide a role model for moderation and self-control during the holidays.
Highfield writes further: "Perhaps Christmas card artists pay homage to seasonal excesses and Santa’s overwhelming cheerfulness by equating rolls of flesh with peals of laughter. Perhaps his girth is the result of eating the millions of cookies and mince pies left out for him on Christmas Eve."
In fact, Santa is not alone. Obesity is now the most common nutritional disorder in the Western world. In America, for example, the epidemic is well under way. an estimated one-third of American adults are overweight, and the incidence of obesity is rising particularly fast in children. Since 1976 the prevalence of pediatric obseity has increased by more than 50 percent. Eight out of 10 obese adolescents grow up to be obese adults, it was learned.
In Britain one-third of all people carry too much fat, and about 5 percent of the population is obese—that is, they are 20 percent or more above their maximum desirable body weight, it was learned further.
The incidence of obesity has doubled in the past decade, and much worse is to come, warns Highfield. A recent reported predicted that one-quarter of British women and almost one-fifth of men will be obese.
In much of Europe, obesity affects 15 to 20 percent of the middle-aged population, he adds. This picture is better for Scandinavia and the Netherlands, where the figure is around 10 percent, but worse for eastern Europe, where it can soar to 50 percent among women. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany each reportedly has between five million and 10 million inhabitants who are obese.
Highfield warns that the possible consequences of adult obesity include diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, coronary heart disease, sleep apnea (a life-threatening problem in which breathing stops), gallbladder disease, chronic heartburn, arthritis, certain cancers, and depression.
Socially, fat people can be as successful as anyone else—think of Santa, for example—but their shape can undermine their self-esteem, particularly in western societies, where thin is fashionable, he adds.
Doctors have declared war on obesity. Nowhere is the battle of the bulge waged more seriously than in the United States, where obesity causes an estimated 300,000 deaths each year and accounts for at least $69 billion in health care costs, lost workdays, and disability.
It was learned further that Americans spend another $33 billion each year on weight-reduction products and programs, offered by a largely ineffective slimming industry.
"The lack of progress in addressing this problem has provided a powerful spur for efforts to find out why we are getting so fat—in the process shedding new light on Santa’s stomach," concludes Highfield. /MP