Five-year study finds more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese
June 22, 2015 11:17 PM
Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press
Seventy percent of American adults — and three of every four men age 25 and older — were overweight or obese from 2007 to 2012.
By David Templeton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Seventy percent of American adults — and three of every four men age 25 and older — were overweight or obese from 2007 to 2012, representing even more weight problems than previously estimated.
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A study by the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, published online Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that 75 percent of men and 67 percent of women during that five-year span were overweight or obese, with the highest percentages among Mexican men at 80.9 percent and non-Hispanic African-American women at 82.6 percent. And it’s unlikely that obesity rates have fallen since 2012.
Graham A. Colditz and Lin Yang at the school of medicine used the latest available data from the National Health Nutrition Examination Survey to determine the prevalence of excess weight and obesity in America.
That data involved 15,208 men and women, with 40 percent of the men being overweight and 35 percent obese for the 75 percent total, and nearly 30 percent of women overweight and nearly 37 percent more obese, for a total of nearly 67 percent. The sample size was large enough to represent national rates of weight gain and obesity, with the 2010 U.S. Census showing a total of 201 million American adults 25 or older.
Study results 20 years ago for the same age group showed 63 percent were overweight or obese, reflecting a sizable percentage increase. Weight gain strongly increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, including breast cancer, among many other health problems.
“Clearly this is not a decline in the rate of weight gain and obesity,” said study author Lin Yang, a post-doctoral fellow at the medical school. “All the guidelines show we can improve weight maintenance through physical activity and healthy eating, but these strategies are not widely practiced. We need to accelerate obesity prevention and treatment.”
Study recommendations include more bicycle lanes, parks and exercise facilities; better availability and consumption of fruits and vegetables; a stronger physician focus on the problem; and reductions in time spent in front of television or computer screens.
Karen Hacker, Allegheny County Health Department director, already has the “Live Well Allegheny” campaign underway with hopes of expanding it to all of the county’s communities and school districts. The program encourages healthy eating and activities, including 5-kilometer races, better food options in schools and even a mobile unit to provide fruits and vegetables to communities lacking access to grocery stories. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recently announced ban of trans fats within three years represents national policy that could help reduce obesity.
But Dr. Hacker said 33 percent of children in K-12 in Allegheny County schools are overweight or obese, which she said is below the national level but still an alarming rate.
Meanwhile, Let’s Move Pittsburgh, a program at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, has just announced the launch of its “5-2-1-0 Movement” to reinforce healthy lifestyle choices to benefit local children. It advocates five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, two hours or less of screen time a day, one hour or more of daily physical activity and zero sugary drinks with more water consumption.
“You have to shift to being more active with healthier food choices,” Dr. Hacker said. “But that can be challenging when you see french fries on salads.”
David Templeton: email@example.com or 412-263-1578. Local program sites include www.livewellallegheny.com/ and www.letsmovepittsburgh.org.
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