(First published in Time.com)
by Alexandra Sifferlin
New numbers show obesity in the United States are high, especially among women
The number of Americans who are overweight or obese continues to reach shocking highs, with some estimates that more than two-thirds of American adults are now overweight or obese. Now, a new study reveals that while obesity rates in men have plateaued, rates have continued to rise among women.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal JAMA, reveals that for the years 2013-2014, the obesity prevalence was 35% for men and 40% for women. When looking at trends over time, the researchers found that from the year 2005 to 2014 there were significant and steady increases in the number of American women who were very obese.
Another study also published Tuesday in JAMA by many of the same researchers revealed that over the last 25 years, there has been a slight increase in obesity among young people ages 12 to 19. The prevalence of obesity among kids ages 2 to 5 has gone down, and it has leveled off in kids ages 6 to 11.
“The obesity epidemic in the United States is now three decades old, and huge investments have been made in research, clinical care, and development of various programs to counteract obesity. However, few data suggest the epidemic is diminishing,” Dr. Jody W. Zylke, the deputy editor of JAMA and Dr. Howard Bauchner, the Editor in Chief of JAMA, wrote in a corresponding editorial.
To reach the findings, study authors from the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at 2013-2014 data for 2,638 adult men and 2,817 adult women. They also looked at national survey data from 21,013 people who were interviewed from 2005 through 2012.
The number of adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, which is considered high-risk obesity, was 7.7%. For men specifically it was 5.5% and for women it was 9.9%. BMI is not a perfect measure of health and is based on a person’s weight and height ratio rather than their actual amount of body fat. Still, the numbers are in line with what other studies have reported regarding the state of the obesity epidemic in the United States.
In the editorial, Zylke and Bauchner argue that progress over the last 30 years has been far too slow, and that new methods may need to be adopted: “Perhaps it is time for an entirely different approach, one that emphasizes collaboration with the food and restaurant industries that are in part responsible for putting food on dinner tables,” they write.