By 2030, Half of Americans Will Be Obese


Half of Americans will be obese in 2030 according to one of four recently published studies about obesity in the medical journal The Lancet. The main culprits are overeating and a lack of exercise; in other words, the obesity epidemic can be attributed to some extent to our modern way of life, with food (especially processed and prepared) readily available and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

Currently, about 32 percent of men and 35 percent of women in the US are obese. Obesity is due to replace tobacco as the “single most important preventable cause of chronic non-communicable diseases,” notes Reuters,and it’s projected to cause an extra 7.8 million cases of diabetes, 6.8 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and 539,000 cases of cancer. Other health problems stemming from obesity include osteoarthritis and high blood pressure.

Obesity rates are also on the rise in Britain: By 2030, 41-48 percent of men and 35-43 percent of women in the UK will be obese. Currently, 26 percent of both sexes are. Obesity pays a huge toll on the healthcare costs. In the US, health costs for problems associated with obesity will increase by 2.6 percent or $66 billion per year and by 2 percent, or £2 billion per year, in the UK. Indeed, the Los Angeles Times points out that money spent on obesity-related problems in the US could increase 13 to 16 percent over 20 years.

Moreover, while the West is definitely the place where the obesity epidemic is well underway, obesity is “no longer just a Western problem,” says Majid Ezzati, a professor of public health at Imperial College London. Around the world, around 1.5 billion adults are overweight. A further 0.5 billion are obese, with 170 million children classified as overweight or obese. People are the heaviest in the Pacific Islands, such as American Samoa. In the industrialized world, people in the US are heaviest and those in Japan the slimmest.

Boyd Swinburn and Gary Sacks of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, go so far as to speak of a “global obesity pandemic “due to “increased supply of cheap, tasty, energy-dense food, improved food distribution and marketing, and the strong economic forces driving consumption and growth.” In another paper, Steven Gortmaker at the Harvard School of Public Health and his colleagues call for the government to step in and create policies to fight obesity including “taxes on unhealthy food and drink (such as sugar sweetened beverages) and restrictions on food and beverage TV advertising to children.”

It’s a gloomy prognosis any way you look at it.  The Los Angeles Times attempts a sanguine view, pointing out how small changes in lifestyle could add up to a big difference:

Let’s say people started watching what they ate and maybe exercised a little, enough so that the population overall dropped its body mass index by 1%–that’s roughly two pounds for a 200-pound adult. That could prevent 2 million to 2.4 million cases of diabetes, 73,000 to 127,000 cases of cancer and 1.4 million to 1.7 million cases of heart disease and stroke.

The question remains, how do we get people — including ourselves — to make those small changes to diet and lifestyle? How do we teach children to reach for apples and not French fries?  Given that obesity rates seem only to rise, can and should the government step in with policies such as Gortmaker describes, against an outcry about “stepping on people’s personal rights to eat and drink and exercise, or not, as they please”?


Related Care2 Coverage

It Doesn’t Make Sense To Support Flavored Milk In Schools

A Better Way to Understand Obesity’s Impact

Just 15 Minutes Exercise A Day Can Make A Huge Difference


Photo by colros


Rin S.
Rin S6 years ago

It's disgusting to think that that could happen

Carole R.
Carole R6 years ago

Yep ... I bet it's true. As much as we'd like to, you can't tell people what and how much to eat.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G6 years ago

Unsurprisingly shameful.

Laure H.
Laure H6 years ago

I agree - it isn't just what we do in the bedroom that affects everyone. What we put onto our plates and shovel down our throats affects everyone, too. By eating as if our neighbor's well-being depended up on it, we could:

drive down health care costs
decrease disability and therefore disability payments
turn around our whole food system to reflect organic and sustainable food systems instead of - as you beautifully put it - eating cardboard
dramatically change how much food - related garbage enters our landfills and recycling centers
increase energy available to do great things in our communities!

Let's all eat as if our neighbors and our environment are at stake - because really, their fate hangs on our forks...or chopsticks....or fingers.....

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Americans would eat cardboard, if it came with super sized fries, as a matter of fact, they are eating cardboard, disguised as hamburger and white buns.

Kristine, In our home it is Organic and always fresh, I can't even imagine anyone purchasing anything less and yet they do.

Women can't find coverage for birth control, for many of their needs but the obese can find all sorts of relief and yes, with time, they will outstrip the system.

Obesity is a slippery slope, with weight gain, one begins to take less walks, parking closer to the store, obtaining a handicap sticker. Now we may not be able to save those who have already become obese but we must strive to put a stop to this tread.

Kristine Huff
Kristine H6 years ago

I get so frustrated when people say, "it's too expensive to buy fresh and/or organic foods." Well you can not put a price on good health. But, point being, instead of taxing unhealthy food (because John Q. Public will eat whatever he or she wants) why can't clothing manufacturers just charge for the size? For instance a size 2 is x$, size 4 is xx$, size 22 is xxxxxxxxxx$. It makes sense that the more fabric you use, the higher the price will be, right? That way the USDA does not have to define what is healthy or unhealthy. Higher prices for clothing may be an incentive to shrink the waist. I dunno, food for thought!

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

I also looked at "A Better Way to Understand Obesity's Impact." It at least alludes to three facts I already knew from elsewhere: 1) Some with high BMIs are not fat--just big. 2) Both physical fitness and good nutrition each contribute more to good health than being within 20% of one's ideal BMI., 3) Much more is involved in obesity than just diet and exercise. Sometimes inability to properly digest some food is to blame. Sometimes hormones out of whack cause obesity (sluggish thyroid or Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome). Stress can cause obesity in some people.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

Disgusting. Obese, not just over one's best weight! We need Medicare for All in this country, but the obese will overwhelm our system. They can't work as well at jobs. They are sicker. They endanger the nurses who must care for them by creating back problems. I am an R.N., retired, and even with slings to help, it would take many people on the unit to deal with one of these people. It was not unusual to take care of 300# and 400# people. I cared for 600# and 750# people more than you would imagine. Not to mention that the human body is a beautiful thing, and to degrade it with flab, is a crime. I am ordinary, not a model, but I have PRIDE and I want to be able to walk and enjoy life and wipe my own ass.

Mark M.
Mark M6 years ago

A core of the problem is that America and many more Americans once had active manufacturing jobs, or worked on farms, or played sports. Now, it is a service-oriented economy, many millions sit at computer screens or in office chairs, burning far less calories and gradually, steadily becoming more UNABLE to burn more calories by engaging in enough meaningful daily or regular activity to reduce weight. Which the body will often do by itself if it is induced to burn more calories AND take in less calories AND take in more healthful calories. An egg is 70 calories. An Egg McMuffin is closer to 700. AND corporations -- those masterpieces of social consciousness and people efficiency and compassion and flexibility -- must be induced to encourage or allow workers to engage in healthful activities, AND give them the time AND the incentive to do so. Raise your hand if you know such a company.... I don't see too many hands. ... Americans are tempted by the crap in grocery stores, overworked but under-motivated, bored, uninspired, borderline or clinically depressed, bombarded with advertising to indulge, pig out, be pleasured, get fulfillment -- and so on. None of this helps the weight, waistline or the bottom line. None of this will help Americans become healthier. It certainly will NOT help our economy, as millions of people need/will need expensive medical care for clogged arteries, weak hearts, etc., and many of them will declare personal bankruptcy due to inability to pay for unins

Laure H.
Laure H6 years ago

Wherever our food goes throughout the world....obesity follows.

Wherever the modern toilet goes, hemmorhoids, incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, colon cancer and appendicitis follow....

Wherever Monsanto goes, crop devastation and bankrupted farmers follow........

Wherever power over money goes, corrruption follows........

Just a little food for thought.