Obesity in America
In the United States, nearly 35 percent of adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Additionally, 18 percent of children ages 6 to 11 and 21 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 19 are also considered obese.
This is a dramatic increase over 1980, when only about 15 percent of adults, 7 percent of children, and 5 percent of adolescents were obese.
By definition, obese means having excessive body fat. It's also often defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
Obesity is associated with some of the leading causes of preventable death, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
The CDC currently estimates that about 112,000 American deaths per year are associated with obesity.
The medical costs associated with obesity have been estimated at between 7 million and 0 million per year, or nearly 10 percent of all medical spending in America.
While the overall number of obese Americans has risen, some racial and ethnic groups are affected more than others:
- Among African-Americans, nearly 48 percent are obese.
- Among Hispanics, nearly 43 percent are obese.
- Among Caucasians, nearly 33 percent are obese.
- Among Asian-Americans, nearly 11 percent are obese.
Rates differ among age groups, as well:
- Nearly 40 percent of adults ages 40 to 59 are obese.
- About 35 percent of adults over age 60 are obese.
- About 30 percent of adults ages 20 to 39 are obese.
Rates vary by U.S. state, with Mississippi and West Virginia having the highest prevalence of obesity, at more than 35 percent of adults, according to the CDC.
Colorado and Hawaii have the lowest prevalence of adult obesity, at just over 21 percent, but no U.S. state has a prevalence of obesity that's less than 20 percent of its adult population.
Children and Adolescents
Obesity in children and teens has negative health effects in both the short-term and long-term.
In the short term, obesity can lead to:
- Sleep apnea (brief interruptions in breathing during sleep)
- Social discrimination and low self-esteem
- Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose levels
Possible longer-term effects include:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
A number of organizations are attempting to help children lead healthier lives and to decrease the number of overweight and obese children and teens. Two of the larger programs are:
- Let's Move, an initiative of Michelle Obama, which focuses on healthy eating, physical activity, and other behavioral steps that constitute a healthy lifestyle
- The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, which attempts to build healthier school environments for students and staff by establishing school policies on food, physical and health education, and employee wellness programs
Is Obesity Epidemic?
The word "epidemic" is usually used to describe the rapid spread of an infectious disease among many people in a community.
Obesity is not generally considered an infectious disease (though ongoing research may change this perception), but its spread has been declared by many to have reached epidemic proportions.
There's no question that obesity is widespread in America and in much of the world.
The global spread of obesity has been fueled in large part by the growing availability and popularity of the Western-style diet, which is characterized by foods with high contents of sugars, salt, and fat — particularly from processed foods and red meat.
Video: Weighing the Facts of Obesity
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