One-Third of Children and Two-Thirds of Adults Overweight
About one-third of U.S. children are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, and two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, according to a CDC study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, USA Today reports (Hellmich, USA Today, 4/5).
The study examines data from CDC's annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is considered the gold standard of weight studies because it uses in-person examinations of height and weight, according to the AP/Boston Globe.
For the study -- led by Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics at CDC -- researchers clustered data from the survey into calculations for 1999-2000, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 (Stobbe, AP/Boston Globe, 4/5). They examined data from a nationally representative sample of 3,958 children and adolescents ages two to 19 and 4,431 adults ages 20 and older.
Children and adolescents with a body-mass index in at least the 95th percentile on a sex-specific BMI growth chart are classified as obese (Ogden et al., "Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in the United States," Journal of the American Medical Association, 4/5).
For adults, those with a BMI between 25 and 30 are classified as overweight, and those with a BMI above 30 are considered obese. BMI is a measure of body fat calculated by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared, multiplied by 703.
The study finds that obesity rates increased among children and men from the 1999-2000 period to the 2003-2004 period, but rates were steady for women over the same time (Stein, Washington Post, 4/5). Additional findings show the following:
- In total, about 25 million U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or nearly overweight, and 136 million U.S. adults are overweight or obese.
- 33.6% of children and adolescents were overweight or nearly overweight in 2003-2004, compared with 28.2% in 1999-2000 (USA Today, 4/5).
- About 67% of men were overweight in 1999-2000, compared with about 71% of men in 2003-2004, while about 62% of women were overweight in both 1999-2000 and 2003-2004.
- About 27.5% of men were obese in 1999-2000, compared with about 31% of men in 2003-2004, while about 33% of women were obese in both 1999-2000 and 2003-2004 (Washington Post, 4/5).
- The percentage of overweight girls increased from 13.8% in 1999-2000 to 16% in 2003-2004, while the percentage of overweight boys increased from 14% to 18.2% (Ricks, Long Island Newsday, 4/5).
Ogden said the steady percentage of obese women might indicate that obesity rates are "leveling off." However, she added, "We'll need more data over the next few years to know for sure, but hopefully we'll see this continue, which would be terrific."
William Dietz of CDC said, "There's growing awareness that this is not a healthy condition." He added, "Women historically have been the early adopters of positive health behaviors. This plateau may reflect an increased effort by women to control their weight" (Washington Post, 4/5).
William Klish, a pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital and professor at Baylor University said, "[N]othing has substantially happened, other than the fact that we've given a lot of lip service to the problem." He added, "We still haven't convinced the average American that obesity is a disease. It's still viewed as a cosmetic problem" (Berger, Houston Chronicle, 4/5).
An abstract of the study is available online.