Heavy Trends in US Weight

Obesity rates in US increased and two-thirds of population estimated to be overweight

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Despite growing awareness of the obesity epidemic, the latest data suggest that health officials and the public are not making enough progress in the face of this unhealthy trend.

A new study estimated that over two-thirds of people in the US are now considered either overweight or obese.

"We are losing the battle of the bulge," said Philip E. McAndrew, MD, a family medicine physician, occupational health specialist and weight loss expert at Loyola University Health System, in an interview with dailyRx News.

Dr. McAndrew, who was not involved with this study, said the latest data are "heart-wrenching."

"The cascading effects are clear: More patients with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and so many other disease states that are so easily preventable with a healthy diet and exercise," Dr. McAndrew said.

The new study, conducted by Lin Yang, PhD, and Graham A. Colditz, MD, DrPH, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, analyzed data from the 2007 to 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey involved around 15,000 adults aged 25 or older. Its results were used to provide estimations for the country as a whole.

Body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height, was used to determine weight status. BMIs ranging from 25 to 29.9 were considered overweight. BMIs of 30 and above were considered obese.

Drs. Yang and Colditz found that during 2007 to 2012, and estimated 39.96 percent of men and 29.74 percent of women were overweight and 35.04 percent of men and 36.84 percent of women were obese in the US.

In other words, an estimated 75 percent of men and 66.6 percent of women were either overweight or obese during these years — more than two-thirds of the US population.

Dr. Yang and Colditz stressed that these results mark increases in overweight and obesity rates from those seen in the 1988 to 1994 NHANES surveys.

"The rising trends in overweight and obesity warrant timely attention from health-policy and health care–system decision makers," Drs. Yang and Colditz wrote.

These researchers called for changes in societal norms of behavior and primary care efforts to address obesity.

"Clearly, what we are doing as a medical community is not having the desired effects," Dr. McAndrew said. "A totally new wellness paradigm is essential."

This study was published online June 22 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

A number of groups funded this research, such as the Washington University School of Medicine, the National Cancer Institute and the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 19, 2015
Last Updated:
June 25, 2015