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U.S. Obesity Epidemic Continues to Grow

One-quarter of Americans report being obese, CDC report says

THURSDAY, July 17, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Despite wide-ranging efforts to encourage Americans to lose weight, the number of U.S. adults who are obese increased almost 2 percent between 2005 and 2007, a new report found.

In 2007, 25.6 percent of adults reported being obese, compared to 23.9 percent in 2005, according to the finding in the July 18 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"The epidemic of adult obesity continues to rise in the United States, indicating that we need to step up our efforts at the national, state and local levels," Dr. William Dietz, director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, said in a news release. "We need to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, engage in more physical activity and reduce the consumption of high-calorie foods and sugar-sweetened beverages in order to maintain a healthy weight."

The percentage of adults who are obese varies by state and region, according to the report. For example, in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, 30 percent of the residents reported being obese, compared with 18.7 percent in Colorado, which had the lowest prevalence of obesity.

Obesity was most prevalent in the South, with 27 percent of residents classified as obese. In the Midwest, the number was 25.3 percent; in the Northeast, 23.3 percent; and in the West, 22.1 percent, according to the report.

In terms of age, among those 50 to 59 years old, 31.7 percent of men and 30.2 percent of women were obese. For those 19 to 29, 19.1 percent of men and women were obese.

Breaking the numbers down by race/ethnicity and sex, obesity prevalence was highest for non-Hispanic black women (39.0 percent), followed by non-Hispanic black men (32.1 percent).

Education levels play a role, too. For men, obesity prevalence was lowest among college graduates (22.1 percent) and highest among those with some college (29.5 percent) and a high school diploma (29.1 percent). For women, obesity prevalence was lowest among college graduates (17.9 percent) and highest among those with less than a high school diploma (32.6 percent).

None of the states or the District of Columbia has met the "Healthy People 2010" goal of reducing the prevalence of obesity to 15 percent or less, the CDC said.

"Obesity is a major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. These diseases can be very costly for states and the country as a whole," Deb Galuska, associate director for science at the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, said in a news release.

The CDC defines obesity as a body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) of 30 or above. An adult who is 5-feet, 9-inches tall is considered obese if he or she weighs 203 pounds.

In compiling the data, the CDC used its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which collected information on more than 350,000 adults through telephone interviews. The researchers calculated BMIs using information reported by survey participants.

"These data from the CDC confirm that the epidemic of obesity continues to spread, whether looking at population trends in the short- or long-term," said Howard D. Sesso, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The likelihood of America meeting the Healthy People 2010 objectives for obesity prevalence appears dim, Sesso said. "This report highlights the need not only to outright prevent the development of obesity over the life-course, but also to improve efforts to reduce body weight in those already classified as obese," he said.

More information

For more on obesity, visit the CDC.

SOURCES: Howard D. Sesso, Sc.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston; July 18, 2008, CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
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