By 2030, 42 percent of Americans — almost half the population — will be overweight, says a just-published study (PDF) by researchers from Duke University in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. That would mean that 32 million more people in the U.S. will be overweight in the next twenty years, adding $550 billion in health spending. Obesity increases our risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.
Today, over 78 million Americans are obese, 35.7 of the population. For an adult, obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher; a person who is 5’9″ (1.75 meters tall) would be obese if he or she weighs over 203 pounds (92 kilograms), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obesity Rate Slowing Down But Still Rising
While the obesity epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s seems to be slowing down, it is by no means ending and even “small continuing increases will add up,” as Lauren Neergaard writes in the Associated Press. She also notes a worsening problem, a doubling in the number of those who severely obese — over 100 pounds overweight — by 2030. Half of adults who are severely obese were obese as children and 17 percent of U.S. children are now obese, three times as many as in the previous generation.
According to the study’s lead author, Duke University health economist Eric Finkelstein, one reason that the obesity rate will continue to rise is that the U.S. population is both growing and aging, and those who are 45 to 64 are most likely to be obese. Researchers collected data via a wide-scale telephone survey conducted by the CDC and also drew on statistics the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other organizations including the American Chamber of Commerce Research Association. To calculate how much the obesity rate could rise in the near future, they also drew on factors such as food prices, the prevalence of fast-food restaurants and unemployment.
The study found that obesity rates have stayed about the same in women but rose in men, with the increase occurring mostly in higher-income men. There were “small increases” in obesity among boys, especially among those who are African-American, says the CDC.
Most Mothers Overlook Obesity in Toddlers
Another recently published study suggests that, after two decades of living in the obesity epidemic, it has become more difficult for some to recognize weight problems. The study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that more than two-thirds of mothers were inaccurate in recognizing that their toddlers were overweight. The study surveyed 281 mothers (71 percent of whom were African-American) recruited from two clinics, one in Baltimore and another in a nearby suburb, which serve mostly low-income mothers; the researchers chose to assess low-income families because children from them are at a higher risk of being overweight.
Has being overweight become the “new normal” for too many of us?
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