Obesity Rates More Similar Among Different Income Groups, Study Finds
Obesity rates are higher among lower-income U.S. residents than among higher-income residents, but the condition is "growing fastest" among those with annual incomes of more than $60,000, according to a study presented on Monday at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Washington, D.C., the AP/Newark Star-Ledger reports (Neergaard, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 5/3). For the study, researchers from the University of Iowa examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 1971-1974 and 2001-2002 (Hellmich, USA Today, 5/3). The study found that almost 27% of participants with annual incomes more than $60,000 were obese in 2002, compared with 9.7% in the early 1970s. About 32.5% of participants with annual incomes less than $25,000 were obese in 2002, compared with 23% in the early 1970s, the study found. Researchers based the income figures used in study on 2000 dollars (Newark Star-Ledger, 5/3).
Study lead author Jennifer Robinson of the UI College of Public Health, said, "We have always thought that poor people were more likely to be obese, and rich people were more likely to be thin, but the highest income groups are catching up." George Blackburn of Harvard Medical School said that the study indicates higher-income individuals can "fall into the same supersizing eating habits the poor are exposed to" (USA Today, 5/3).
However, Adam Drewnowski, an obesity expert at the University of Washington, said, "I would caution against any attempts to interpret these data to say social differences have disappeared." He added, "It just shows that obesity is a general problem and it's now affecting pretty much everybody. ... But it would be very shortsighted to stop paying attention to the people who are most vulnerable" (Newark Star-Ledger, 5/3).
The risk for death among U.S. women increases as the severity of their obesity increases, according to a study presented on Saturday at the AHA meeting, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. For the study, Kathleen McTigue of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues examined data on 90,000 women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study over five years. The study compared normal-weight women, who have a body-mass index of less than 25, with women in three categories of obesity: Class 1, a BMI of 30 to 34.9; Class 2, a BMI of 35 to 39.9; and Class 3, a BMI of 40 or higher.
According to the study, white women with Class 1 obesity had a 19% higher risk for death than normal-weight women, and those with Class 3 obesity had double the risk. Black women with Class 1 obesity had a 36% higher risk for death than normal-weight women, and those with Class 3 obesity had a 60% higher risk, the study found. In addition, the study found that apple-shaped women had a higher risk for death than pear-shaped women of the same weight. McTigue said, "People think of obesity as a single thing, but your risk can be modified within that," adding that "it would definitely improve your health prognosis if you can move yourself just one weight category over" (Neergaard, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/1).
In other obesity news, the University of Baltimore on Tuesday released a second annual report card on state efforts to prevent obesity and awarded 11 Bs, 23 Cs, 11 Ds and five Fs, the Washington Times reports. No state received an A on the report card.
The university hopes that the report card will prompt state lawmakers to pass new legislation related to obesity awareness, nutrition and exercise, according to Kenneth Stanton, a co-author of the report card and finance professor at the university. Stanton said, "I think we saw some superficial efforts to do something about obesity." He said that more states likely will seek to limit vending machine access in schools and require time for exercise and recess for students (Higgins, Washington Times, 5/3).
AP/Long Island Newsday on Sunday examined a revised CDC obesity study published April 20 that "was confusing and quickly became a target for critics of 'food police' efforts by the government." The study found that overweight individuals have a lower risk for death than those of normal weight. However, the study did not challenge the view that extreme obesity causes health problems.
Robert Kushner, medical director of Wellness Institute at Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago, added that the focus on death rates in the study did not account for other health problems and quality of life issues related to obesity (Tanner, AP/Long Island Newsday, 5/1). The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday examined confusion related to the CDC study (Anderson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/3).
Washington Post: The original CDC study "contained serious methodological and calculation errors, which CDC was slow to acknowledge," but that should not "change the health advice that the government gives to schools and other institutions that serve and teach children about food," a Post editorial states. The editorial adds that "CDC administrators would do better to leave science to the full-time scientists," a practice that would leave the agency, "and its statistics, less open to simple-minded attack" by critics (Washington Post, 5/2).
- Washington Times: When did CDC "become more of a political than scientific agency?" a Times editorial asks, adding that a "good reference point could be when CDC began creating 'epidemics' that could only be 'cured' with vast government resources." The "fact that a much lower number of Americans are dying ... doesn't mean being obese isn't a significant health risk," the editorial states, adding, "The question ... is whether a government agency is justified in hyping a problem to achieve a political -- and perhaps healthier -- end" (Washington Times, 5/2).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Monday as part of an occasional series, "What Americans Eat," reported on environmental and evolutionary causes of cravings for fatty and salty foods. The segment includes comments from Gary Beacham, director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, and Barbara Rolls, a nutritionist at the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Pennsylvania State University (Neighmond, "Morning Edition," NPR, 5/2). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. Expanded NPR coverage is available online.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.