Obesity in the USA has inched up slightly over the past decade, mainly because of weight gain among men and boys, new government statistics show.
The percentage of obese men increased to 35.5% in 2010, up from 27.5% in 2000. About 35.7% of women were obese in 2010, not a significant change from 2000. Adults are considered obese if they are roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight.
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About 16.9% of children and adolescents, ages 2 to 19, were obese in 2010, up 13.9% from 2000. This was mostly because of an increase in the percentage of boys who are obese.
Obesity was relatively stable in the USA between 1960 and 1980 when about 15% of people fell into the category, and then it increased dramatically in the '80s and '90s.
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Overall, there has been no overall significant change in recent years. This is another indication that the national obesity epidemic may be leveling off after several decades of skyrocketing growth. Data released two years ago suggested a similar trend.
In 2010, about a third (35.7%) of U.S. adults, or almost 78 million people, were obese. That is up from 30.5% in 2000 but not significantly different from 33.7% in 2008.
"The prevalence of obesity has been flat in recent years, but there has been a small increase in the last decade, particularly among men and boys," says Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We don't know what will happen in the future, and there's no guarantee that things will continue as they have been," she says. "Obesity is a complex disease that's related to many things, including the environment."
Obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer and other health problems.
Among the findings released online today in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
•About 69% of adults in the USA are either overweight or obese; that's up from 64.5% in 2000.
•About 42% of women over 60 were obese in 2010 vs. about 32% of women 20 to 39.
•31.8% of kids and adolescents, ages 2 to 19, were obese or overweight.
•The average body mass index (BMI) of men rose to 28.7 in 2010 up from 27.7 in 2000. For women the average BMI remained unchanged at about 28.5.
Body mass is a number that takes into account height and weight. Adults are considered overweight if they have a BMI of 25 to 29.9. Obesity in adults is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. Children are classified as overweight or obese based on where they fall on BMI growth charts.
Obesity is taking a toll on the health of millions of people, says Patrick O'Neil, president of the Obesity Society, a group of weight-control researchers and professionals.
Adults who are obese are vulnerable to the sickness and impaired quality of life that so often accompany the condition, he says. "The flood tide of obesity shows no signs of receding, and continues to threaten to engulf the health care system."
Gary Foster, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia, says, "These rates will continue to confer significant medical, psychosocial and economic consequences for our country."
This new analysis is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is considered the gold standard for evaluating the obesity problem in the USA because it is an extensive survey of people whose weight and height are actually measured rather than being self-reported.