Obesity rates continue to increase in U.S.

During the past 20 years, the proportion of adults in the U.S. who are overweight or obese has significantly increased, causing health and economic concerns.

As of 2012, the most recent data available, 39.96 percent of men were overweight and 35.04 percent of men were obese. Meanwhile, 29.74 percent of women were overweight and 36.84 percent of women were obese.

Researchers Lin Yang, PhD, and Graham A. Colditz, MD, DrPH, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, published their findings online in JAMA Internal Medicine on June 22.

“The rising trends in overweight and obesity warrant timely attention from health policy and healthcare system decision makers,” they wrote.

They analyzed information from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), which included data from 2007 to 2012. They evaluated adults who were at least 25 years old and classified patients using their body mass index: underweight was less than 18.5 kg/m2; normal weight was between 18.5 kg/m2 and 24.9 kg/m2; overweight was between 25.0 kg/m2 and 29.9 kg/m2; obesity class 1 was between 30 kg/m2 and 34.9 kg/m2; obesity class 2 was between 35.0 kg/m2 and 39.9 kg/m2; and obesity class 3 was 40 kg/m2 or above.

Among Mexican Americans, 43.17 percent of men and 33.58 percent of women were overweight, while 37.74 percent of men and 43.31 percent of women were obese.

Among non-Hispanic blacks, 33.44 percent of men and 25.77 percent of women were overweight, while 39.16 percent of men and 56.78 percent of women were obese.

Among non-Hispanic whites, 40.74 percent of men and 30.02 percent of women were overweight, while 35.29 percent of men and 33.93 percent of women were obese.

Yang and Colditz wrote that the percentage of people who are obese or overweight has increased compared with the period from 1988 to 1994.

“Clinical practice for the prevention and treatment of chronic conditions has mainly focused on screening high-risk populations,” they wrote. “As a result, people in higher-weight categories are more likely to be diagnosed with the chronic diseases associated with excess weight because of more frequent measurements, compared with people in the normal-weight category. This approach may ignore individuals with normal weight and their weight gain, which puts them at risk.”

To lower the rates of obesity, they recommended using prevention strategies such as promoting physical activity and a healthy diet. They noted that the Institute of Medicine released strategies in 2012 that could serve as a model for healthcare professionals to follow.