Escalation in Obesity Rates Across the U.S.

Key Takeaways:

  • Obesity rates in the U.S. are shockingly high, with estimates predicting half of U.S. teenagers to be overweight or obese by 2030, according to recent studies.
  • Patterns of obesity fluctuate based on factors such as sex and race, with rates noticeably increasing among both men and women in recent years.
  • Child obesity rates are also a cause for concern, particularly amongst boys, with the rate of obesity continually increasing since 2011.
  • Experts, such as registered dietitians, advocate for large-scale efforts against obesity, highlighting the importance of adopting a plant-based lifestyle with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • The role of parents and society is crucial in combating this obesity epidemic, from fostering healthful habits in children to implementing diet and exercise programs in schools and workplaces.

After a brief period of stabilization, the obesity rate in the U.S. appears to be on the surge again as suggested by perturbing recent studies. The impact of this trend could mean half of all U.S. teenagers are set to be overweight or obese by 2030, and similarly alarming rates apply to one-third of kids between the ages of 6 and 11.

Weight-Related Concerns Among U.S. Men

The escalating rate of overweight and obesity had subsided between 2009 and 2012. Alarmingly, however, in 2015-2016, around 75 percent of men were recorded as overweight or obese. These worrying figures might suggest a regression, but this cannot be definitively confirmed. “The findings rely on a relatively minor segment of the American population, meaning it will take additional studies over an extended period to ascertain if this is a lasting trend or a temporary fluctuation,” said the leader of the research team, Dr. Youfa Wang, a professor at Ball State University.

The Ongoing National Obesity Problem

Gloomy predictions from the researchers suggest that the nationwide obesity issue is not diminishing. Dr. Wang noted, “It seems unlikely that obesity and health issues related to overweight in the U.S. will reduce in time to come.”

Studying The Patterns of Obesity: Men and Women

Interestingly, the patterns of obesity varied based on factors such as sex and race, as per the data from two ongoing federal health surveys analyzed by Wang’s team. Among women, the obesity rate has been continually climbing, reaching 41.5 percent by 2016 — a point where 69 percent of U.S. women were categorized as overweight or obese. For men, the increase in obesity and overweight rates paused between 2009 and 2012 but began rising again by 2015-2016.

Obesity Patterns in Children

The child obesity patterns were no less concerning. The rates have been continuously increasing in boys since 2011, reaching almost 21 percent by 2016. Around 7 percent of boys were deemed severely obese. For girls, however, the obesity rate remained stable, at just over 18 percent.

The research team forecasts that by 2030, nearly half of U.S. teenagers will be overweight or obese, a measure that is presently accurate for about half of Mexican-American adults.

Opinions from Expert Dietitians

“Current findings cast doubt on whether any progress was made in the fight against obesity, but I am of the view that large-scale efforts to combat obesity are required,” says Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian and member of the American Society for Nutrition. The importance of lifestyle changes is greatly emphasized by experts. “Adopt a more plant-based diet. Incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts and seeds into your meals,” advises Dubost.

Encouraging Healthy Habits in Children

Parents play a crucial role in helping children maintain a healthy weight by setting the right example. Involving children in shopping and preparing meals from an early age fosters their knowledge about a healthful diet.

Efforts to Curb the Obesity Epidemic

Studies have suggested that diet and exercise programs in schools can show some positive effects. However, due to the widespread prevalence of obesity, efforts are needed at all levels — from schools to workplaces to local communities and beyond. Every sector of society must participate in this struggle against the obesity epidemic.

More information
Find advice on preventing and managing obesity at CDC’s Obesity Prevention and Management Strategies.

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