Obesity among U.S. adults is continuing to level off after several decades of skyrocketing growth, new government data show.
In 2012, about 34.9% of the people in this country were obese, which is roughly 35 pounds over a healthy weight. That is not significantly different from the 35.7% who were obese in 2010.
In 2010 and 2012, about 78 million adults were obese, according to the latest statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Even though it looks like a slight drop in the percentage of adults who are obese, this difference is not statistically significant," says Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics. "This is more evidence that we're not seeing a change in adult obesity."
Harvey Grill, president of the Obesity Society, says, "The fact that we're at 35% of adult Americans who are obese is extremely troubling because their obesity will result in health problems for the majority of them."
Scott Kahan, director of the STOP Obesity Alliance at George Washington University, an obesity policy think tank, says, "The numbers are still at epidemic levels, and we need to continue to create smart strategies to address this health problem."
There has been no significant change in obesity rates since 2004 when the obesity rate was about 32%, Ogden says.
The prevalence of obesity increased dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s after being relatively stable in the USA between 1960 and 1980 when about 15% of people fell into the category.
The latest statistics did not include obesity rates for children and adolescents, but there has been some indication in recent CDC reports that those rates have leveled off too.
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 epidemic in the USA, because it is an extensive survey of people whose weight and height are actually measured rather than being self-reported.
Obesity is determined by calculating body mass index, which takes into account height and weight. Adults are obese if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater.
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