Rate of Severely Obese U.S. Residents Quadruples Between 1986 and 2000, Study Finds
The rate of U.S. residents who are severely obese -- at least 100 pounds overweight -- quadrupled between 1986 and 2000, according to a study published in the October issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, the Washington Post reports. In the study, lead researcher Roland Sturm, a senior economist for Rand, analyzed data collected for the federal Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and found that one in 50 U.S. residents in 2000 had a body mass index -- a standard measure of height to weight -- of more than 40, compared with one in 200 in 1986. Individuals with a BMI of 25 or more are considered overweight; those with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. The study also found that the rate of U.S. residents with a BMI of more than 30 doubled from one in 10 in 1986 to one in five in 2000, and the rate with a BMI of 50 or more increased from one in 2,000 in 1986 to one in 400 in 2000. Sturm said the results of the study indicate that many U.S. residents will develop health problems earlier (Stein, Washington Post, 10/14). Individuals who are 100 to 200 pounds overweight often develop diabetes, arthritis or other weight-related medical conditions by age 40 or younger, Sturm said (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 10/14). "I call this the hidden part of the obesity epidemic. We've heard so much about obesity and heard predictions about how obesity will increase health care costs. But that is a severe understatement because none have taken into account severe obesity," Sturm said (Washington Post, 10/14). Dr. Frank Vinicor, director of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the CDC, discussed issues related to obesity and diabetes on CNN's "Saturday Morning" (Cohen, "Saturday Morning," CNN, 10/11). The full transcript of the segment is available online.
An experimental device called an implantable gastric stimulator may be an effective alternative to bariatric surgery to help obese people lose weight, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, the AP/Tallahassee Democrat reports. The study, announced Sunday at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, involved 30 men and women with an average weight of 242 pounds and an average body mass index of 42. Body mass indices higher than 25 are considered unhealthy. Dr. Scott Shikora, head of bariatric surgery at Tufts-New England, and colleagues implanted the device in participants and found that after one year, two-thirds of participants lost an average of 18% of excess weight. The study, funded by Transneuronix, the device's manufacturer, did not show any deaths or serious complications resulting from the implant. The device, which is about the size of a silver dollar and is similar to a cardiac pacemaker, is implanted near the stomach's major nerves. Scientists are unsure how it limits appetite but speculate that it may impact nerves, stomach muscles or digestive hormones. The device already is approved for use in Europe, and Transneuronix Executive Vice President Steven Adler said the company hopes to begin a larger, two-year study as part of an application for FDA approval (Haney, AP/Tallahassee Democrat, 10/13). NBC's "Nightly News" on Monday reported on the implantable gastric stimulator. The segment includes comments from Shikora (Bazell, "Nightly News," NBC, 10/13). The full segment is available online in Windows Media.
California Healthline rounds up recently-published features about the obesity epidemic. Summaries of the articles appear below.
Los Angeles Times: The increasing number of obese patients is "creating a serious problem for hospitals, both medically and economically," the Times reports. Hospitals in recent years have had to order oversized medical equipment -- such as beds, surgical equipment and operating tables -- to accommodate larger and heavier patients. Meanwhile, some patient advocates said obese patients have begun to face "hostility and discrimination" from health care providers, according to the Times (Foreman, Los Angeles Times, 10/13).
New York Times: The Times on Sunday examined some measure that companies nationwide are taking to encourage an "increasingly overweight" workforce to "move more and eat less." Corporate programs include redesigned pedestrian-friendly office campuses, coverage of prescription weight-loss drugs under employee benefits and complete wellness programs (Zernike, New York Times, 10/12).
New York Times Magazine: The U.S. obesity epidemic's "underlying problem is agricultural overproduction" of corn, an issue that is exacerbated by the U.S. government "recklessly encouraging farmers to produce even more unneeded food," the Times Magazine reports. Although the "focus of political pressure" has been the fast food and processed foods industries, policymakers should "develop a new set of agricultural policies" to stem the "tide of cheap calories" (Pollan, New York Times Magazine, 10/12).