Obesity rates stabilizing

A third of U.S. adults are obese. While this doesn't appear to be increasing, boys at the heaviest weight levels have become heavier, JAMA reports.

By — Posted Jan. 29, 2010

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Although obesity prevalence remains high among adults in the United States, the rate of growth has slowed over the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics study.

A similar trend has emerged among children and adolescents, indicates a separate study, also conducted by NCHS.

Both reports, and a related editorial, were posted online Jan. 13 as early release articles by the Journal of the American Medical Association (link).

Approximately 33.8% of adults were obese (having a body mass index of 30 or higher) during 2007-08, up from 30% in 1999-2000, according to the NCHS.

School-age children experienced a smaller upswing in obesity rates (BMI levels for age at or above the 95th percentile), climbing from approximately 16% in 1999-2002 to 17% in 2007-08. One exception: 6- to 19-year-old boys at the heaviest weight levels became heavier.

Still, researchers said the increase in the obesity prevalence seen between 1999 and 2008 is not advancing at the rates seen in past decades.

Although these findings are consistent with other studies, this does not indicate that the nation's obesity epidemic has been remedied, according to Cynthia Ogden, PhD, an author of both studies and an epidemiologist with the NCHS.

"Obesity remains a significant health concern in the United States ... [and] a challenge," Ogden said. "We have a lot of work to do still."

The adult obesity study analyzed data regarding trends in obesity from 2,750 men and 2,805 nonpregnant women ages 20 and older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2007 and 2008.

Researchers calculated overall age-adjusted obesity prevalence at 33.8%, with 32.2% of men and 35.5% of women considered obese. The rates varied by racial and ethnic groups with non-Hispanic white men and women having lower levels than did black and Mexican-American participants.

Comparing the most recent data with figures from 1999, researchers found women showed no significant changes in obesity prevalence. In contrast, the obesity rate among men jumped from 27.5% in 1999-2000 to 32.2% in 2007-08. But Ogden said the rate has remained steady since 2003.

The childhood and adolescent obesity study examined data for 719 infants and toddlers up to age 2, and 3,281 children and adolescents age 2 to 19, who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2007 and 2008.

Researchers found BMI levels at or above the 95th percentile in about 10% of infants and toddlers and 18% of adolescents and teenagers.

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