CDC Report Finds Jump in Obesity Rate, Now at 26.7% of U.S. Populace
Obesity in adults is defined by a body mass index of 30 or higher.
The report estimated that the increase corresponds to an additional 2.4 million U.S. residents who are now considered obese, raising the U.S. total to 72.5 million residents.
The issue particularly was concerning in the South, where obesity rates exceeded 30% in nine states in 2009, compared with just three states in 2007.
The report -- titled "Vital Signs: State-Specific Obesity Prevalence Among Adults -- United States, 2009" -- found that Mississippi had the highest obesity rate, at 34.4% (Jackson Randall, Wall Street Journal, 8/4).
Although no state or Washington, D.C., met CDC's Healthy People 2010 obesity target of 15%, only Colorado and the district came close, with obesity rates below 20% (Stobbe, AP/Los Angeles Times, 8/3).
According to the latest CDC report:
- Obesity rates were higher among people ages 50 and older, but officials noted that the aging population might account for only part of the general increase in obesity rates;
- The obesity rate was highest among non-Hispanic black women, at 41.9%;
- Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to be obese;
- People with higher levels of education were less likely to be heavier than people with lower levels of education (Grady, New York Times, 8/3);
- Medical costs for U.S. residents who are obese were $1,429 higher than for people of normal weight; and
- U.S. medical costs attributed to obesity were estimated to be as high as $147 billion in 2006 (Wall Street Journal, 8/4).
Reasons for Lower Rates in Colorado, D.C.
William Dietz -- director of CDC's nutrition, physical activity and obesity division -- said that Colorado's obesity of rate of 19%, the lowest in the country, likely is a result of the state's efforts to improve biking and walking trails and encourage more residents to use them (Fox, Reuters, 8/3).
He said it is unclear why the obesity rate in Washington, D.C., was as low as it is, particularly because the city has a large number of black residents, who typically have higher rates of obesity (New York Times, 8/3).
However, he said that the district has an accessible public transportation system, which encourages residents to walk more, and higher rates of fruit and vegetable consumption and breastfeeding (AP/Los Angeles Times, 8/3).
Suggestions for Addressing Obesity Nationwide
CDC Director Thomas Frieden said that the U.S. can address the high rates of obesity by encouraging increased physical activity, breastfeeding, and fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as reducing television-viewing time for young individuals and lowering high-caloric food and beverage intake.
He added that in schools, water and healthy drink options should be more widely available, and physical education classes should be increased (Hellmich, USA Today, 8/3).
Possible Discrepancy in Report
For the latest report, CDC researchers analyzed data from the national Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a phone survey in which 400,000 individuals were asked to self-report their height and weight, among other information.
Officials noted that they relied on the survey's participants to provide accurate height and weight data, which some people would be likely to misrepresent (Reuters, 8/3). As a result, CDC officials said that the reports could have underestimated actual obesity rates.
CDC noted that a report released in January -- which was based on actual measurements among more than 5,500 adults between 2007 and 2008 -- found that the U.S. obesity rate was about 34% (Wall Street Journal, 8/4).
Experts said that the 27% obesity rate estimate is approaching the more scientific 34% estimate because individuals are sharing more accurate data about themselves (AP/Los Angeles Times, 8/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.