Young adults have the freedom to eat, drink, and smoke as they please while their metabolisms help them curtail the threat of America’s obesity epidemic. According to Gallup’s recently released lifestyle data, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the Millennial generation has the lowest obesity rate compared to older generations, but their eating and lifestyle habits are far from healthy.
“Millennials have the least amount of disposable income. That can have the effect of moving them towards less expensive, quicker and more convenient, less nutritious food options,” said Dan Witters, research director for Gallup’s Well-Being Index, in a statement. “Look at what they’ve done over time. The Millennials are managing to buck that trend. They’re keeping their obesity at a comparatively low level.”
Witters and his team of researchers interviewed more than 2.3 million American adults and calculated their body mass index by recording their height and weight. Millennials were categorized as 20 to 26 year olds, while Generation X falls between ages 27 and 51, and Baby Boomers between ages 52 and 70. They found that despite Millennials’ lower rate of obesity, they eat worse than previous generations. Only half of millennials reported eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables in the last four days. But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, men and women should be eating at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit every day, which means a majority of Millennials aren’t even hitting the minimum daily requirements.
Their other lifestyle choices aren’t much better and could predict a downfall for the health of future generations. A larger percentage of Millennials said they smoked (23 percent) compared to Generation X (22 percent) and Baby Boomer (20 percent) generations. Not only that, but Millennials were also bigger drinkers than older generations.
Comparatively though, young adults tend to have faster metabolisms and a greater percentage of lean muscle than older adults. The higher your muscle mass, the higher your metabolism will be even when your body is at rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks physical activity rates by age group in America, and has found the older people get, the less likely they are to engage in physical activity, especially when it comes to women.
According to the Mayo Clinic, metabolism converts food and drink into energy just to help your body breathe, circulate blood, fluctuate hormone levels, and grow and repair cells. By neglecting the body from healthy foods, such as basic fruits and vegetables and combining it with higher alcohol consumption, the body may have a difficult time processing energy efficiently, which slows the metabolism.
Gallup experts think otherwise. Even though the low millennial obesity rate may be a result of their young, lean-muscled bodies, Gallup found millennials were the only age group to experience a decrease in the obesity rate since 2008. The authors wrote: "Obesity and smoking are two areas for which the change over time since 2008 - holding age constant - looks better for millennials than for older generations and age groups."
So, while Millennials may be enjoying the freedom of lower obesity rates and optimism now, their current unhealthy habits may be laying the foundation for greater rates of obesity.
Source: Witters D. Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index . 2016