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Jun 09, 2016

Latest U.S. Obesity Trends Still Concerning

National data from 2013–2014 confirms that obesity rates remain high among U.S. children and adults.

While obesity rates have stabilized in recent decades, the latest analysis of 2013–2014 data confirms that obesity remains a major concern among children, adolescents and adults in the United States.

In the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, two studies provide recent updates on obesity trends in the United States. The first analyzed obesity rates in in adults over 20, while the second looked at changes in obesity rates among children and adolescents aged 2–19. Both used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which continuously surveys Americans about their health and lifestyle to track health trends in the United States.

The good news is that based on 2013–2014 data, obesity rates remain stabilized in many adults. Among 5,455 adults surveyed, 35% of men and 40% of women were considered obese (body mass index of 35 or higher). Additionally, 5.5% of men and 10% of women were considered morbidly obese (body mass index of 40 or higher). These rates have remained largely unchanged since 2005, although researchers note a slight increase in obesity rates among women.

Obesity trends are also similar among America’s youth, based on 2011–2014 data from more than 7,000 children and adolescents. Among children aged 2–19 years old, 17% were obese and 6% considered extremely obese. Although rates are high, obesity rates have decreased in children aged 2–5 years and stabilized in 6–11-year-olds since the mid-2000s. However, obesity rates have continued to increase among adolescents since 1988.

According to experts, findings are neither good nor surprising. Although obesity rates have stabilized in recent years, obesity rates remain extremely high in both children and adults. Recent findings suggest that obesity rates continue to rise in women and adolescents.

As a result, experts continue to highlight the importance of prevention. Studies continue to link obesity to increased risk for chronic disease and reduced life expectancy. Through research, education and policy change, experts hope to promote healthier lifestyles to combat obesity in children and adults.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a healthy body mass index?
  • Body mass index, referred to as BMI, is a measurement used to estimate levels of body fat based on your height and weight. CardioSmart offers a BMI calculator to help you know your numbers. For adults, BMI under 18.5 is underweight, 18.5–24.9 is normal, 25.0–29.9 is overweight, and over 30 is considered obese.

  • What is a healthy weight for children?
  • Body mass index (BMI) is used to determine whether a child falls into an underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese range. For children, BMI is calculated using height and weight, and takes into account both age and gender. Children with a BMI falling between the 5th and 85th percentile are considered a healthy weight.

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