One-Third of U.S. Adults Obese, Two-Thirds Overweight, Study Finds
Nearly one-third of U.S. adults are obese and approximately two-thirds are overweight, according to a new study in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Washington Post reports (Squires, Washington Post, 10/9). For the study, CDC researchers measured the height and weight of 4,115 adult men and women between 1999 and 2000 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Researchers found 30.5% of adults were obese, or had a body mass index greater than or equal to 30, compared to 22.9% in a similar survey conducted between 1988 and 1994. Extreme obesity, a body mass index greater than or equal to 40, also increased from 2.9% in 1988-1994 to 4.7% in 1999-2000. In addition, the percentage of overweight U.S. adults, those with a BMI greater than or equal to 25, increased from 55.9% in 1988-1994 to 64.5% in 1999-2000 (Flegal et al., JAMA, 10/9). The study also found:
- Thirty-three percent of adult women are obese, compared with 28% of men.
- Fifty percent of African-American women are obese compared with 40% of Mexican-American women and 30% of white women.
- Fifteen percent of African-American women are "extremely" obese (Hellmich, USA Today, 10/9).
- Almost 40% of women between the ages of 60 and 74 are obese, up from 21.3% in 1980; 36% of men in the same age group are obese, compared to 13.5% in 1980.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the epidemic "portends mounting medical problems" for the country because obesity increases the risk of several conditions, including Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers. And the "prognosis for a turn around is not encouraging," according to the Inquirer. CDC researchers said that "relatively little is known about the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity on a population-wide basis," adding that it "likely will be difficult to reverse the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity" in the country (Uhlman, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/9). The full study is available online.
The obesity epidemic also is affecting children, according to a companion study that found about 15% of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight. Researchers examined 4,722 U.S. children from birth through age 19, as part of the NHANES survey. Researchers found:
- Approximately 15% of children between ages 12 and 19 are overweight, up from 5% in the late 1970s.
- Fifteen percent of children between age six and 11 are overweight, compared with 7% in the late 1970s.
- Ten percent of children between age two and five are overweight, compared with 5% in the 1970s.
- Twenty-seven percent of Mexican-American boys between age six and 19 are overweight; in addition, 27% of African-American girls between ages 12 and 19 are overweight (Hellmich, USA Today, 10/9).
American Obesity Association President Richard Atkinson said, "This is a stunning increase and a really scary thing. The public health costs of this are just really frightening if the disease acts as it has in adults. It certainly portends a grave public health problem." In an accompanying editorial, Phil Fontanarosa, deputy editor of JAMA, writes, "[D]uring a time when the amount of research activity, knowledge and interest in obesity among the medical community as well as the level of public attention to the issues of weight, diet and exercise have never been greater, the epidemic of obesity continues virtually unabated with no sign of reversal." JAMA said it will publish an obesity-themed issue in the spring of 2003, the Post reports (Washington Post, 10/9). NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday reported on the obesity studies (Que, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/8). The full segment is available in RealPlayer 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.