Facts About Diet-Related Diseases

Facts About Diet-Related Diseases

Vermont is plagued with chronic diseases caused by poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity


The Health Risk for Adults 

  • Obesity affects a quarter of Vermont adults and over 60% are overweight or obese.
  • According to the State of Obesity Report, the obesity rate of adults in Vermont has been steadily climbing from 10% in 1990 to 27.6% currently. Read the Diet-Related Diseases White paper.


The Health Risk for Kids

  • 29% of Vermont youth 4 are overweight or obese.
  • A new body mass index study of 1 st , 3 rd and 5 th graders in Franklin and Grand Isle counties by RiseVT found 41% of youth were overweight or obese.
  • An alarming 14.1% of 2- to 4-year-olds in the WIC program and 12.4% of high school students in Vermont are obese.
  • There are more than three times as many overweight children and adolescents in the U.S. than there were in 1980.
  • Health care costs will only escalate if nothing is done as obese children are at least twice as likely as non-obese children to become obese adults.
  • A 2018 study in the New England Journal of Medicine notes the majority of today’s toddlers will be obese by the age of 25. Read the Diet-Related Diseases White paper.

Severity & Costs of the Problem in Vermont

  • The Vermont Department of Health’s number one goal under its State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) is reducing the prevalence of obesity and tobacco use.
  • Poor diet and lack of physical activity are two of the three unhealthy behaviors identified by VDH in its 3-4-50 campaign to reduce chronic diseases and health care costs in Vermont. These, along with tobacco use, lead to cancer, heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes and lung disease, and result in more than 50% of deaths in Vermont.
  • These are costly, preventable diseases. Chronic diseases affect the quality of life for Vermonters and the state’s economic future. Medical costs related to asthma, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease have continually increased from $1.52 billion in 2010 to $2,042,000,000 in 2015.
  • Costs related to chronic diseases are expected to continue on this path, increasing by 75 percent from 2010 to 2020.
  • Vermont’s current 38,031 cases of heart disease are expected to grow to 190,617 and its current 10,273 cases of obesity-related cancer are expected to grow to 27,751 by 2030 if Vermont continues on its current path. Read the Diet-Related Diseases White paper.

The Problem with Sugary Beverages

  • Sugary drinks provide the largest source of daily calories in the diets of American children ages two to 18. In fact, each extra serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage consumed a day increases a child’s chance of becoming obese by 60 percent.
  • Sugary drinks, unlike junk foods which may contribute some nutrition to the diet, are just “empty” calories. Consumption is directly linked to expensive, chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. People who drink sugary drinks regularly, one to two cans a day or more, have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who rarely have such drinks.
  • Drinking just one sugary drink a day increases a man’s risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack by 20%.
  • Despite the health risks associated with soda and other sugary drink consumption, the majority (74%) of the top restaurant chains’ default beverage with a kids’ meal is a sugary drink, which influences the eating patterns and establish norms for the 2-5 year-olds who eat kids’ meals. Read the Diet-Related Diseases White paper.

Scope of the Solution

  • The problem of chronic diseases caused by poor nutrition and lack of physical activity were caused by many factors, and, like Vermont’s effective Tobacco Control Program, it will take a comprehensive approach to address the problem and change norms.
  • That program, which addresses a public health threat in communities, schools, and media, and focuses on both prevention and cessation, saved Vermont $1.43 billion in what it would have otherwise spent treating tobacco-caused diseases. Vermont should take the same approach to preventing chronic diseases caused by poor nutrition and lack of physical activity.
  • Education alone is not the answer: 
    • Education is one of the least effective ways to solve a public health problem.
    • Changing the context by making the healthy choice the easy choice is one of the most impactful. This means passing policy efforts that help make individuals’ default choice the healthy one.  Read the Diet-Related Diseases White paper.

What Can be Done

The following are among the public health policies that Vermont must address to reduce diet-related

  • Restaurant Kids Meals — Ensuring all restaurant meals sold to children meet nutrition standards and removing sugary drinks from all restaurant children’s meals.
    • Americans now spend more of their food budget on foods prepared away from home than on foods at home. Children consume roughly 25% of their calories from eating out, and about 42% of children aged two to nine eat fast food on a given day.
  • Implementing an excise tax on sugary beverages — public health experts predict these taxes have the potential to be one of the most effective policy strategies to achieve health equity.
    • Taxes in Berkeley and Mexico have lowered consumption of sugary drinks while increasing the volume of healthy drinks purchased.
    • Revenue estimates for a 2 cent/oz tax in Vermont are around $30 million conservatively which could be used for programs to increase access to nutritious foods and opportunities for exercise.
  • Funding for Obesity Prevention – for comprehensive efforts similar to Vermont’s Tobacco Control Program that would address obesity and diet-related diseases in schools, communities and media to promote healthy eating and active living and enable Vermonter to more easily make the healthy choice the easy choice.
    • There is a great return on investment concerning prevention spending.
    • Independent evaluation of Vermont’s Tobacco Control Program found that with the $72 million the state invested in tobacco control between 2001-2014, it resulted in an estimated $1.43 billion savings in overall smoking-related health care costs (including $586 million in Medicaid costs).  Read the Diet-Related Diseases White paper.