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Study: More than one-third of U.S. adults qualify as obese

Wednesday February 26, 2014
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The prevalence of obesity remains high in the U.S., with about a third of adults and 17% of children and teens categorized as obese in 2011-12, according to survey findings.

Obesity and childhood obesity, in particular, are the focus of many preventive health efforts in the U.S., including new regulations implemented by the Department of Agriculture for food packages; funding by the CDC of state- and community-level interventions; and numerous reports and recommendations issued by the Institute of Medicine, the Surgeon General and the White House, according to background information in the article, which was published in the Feb. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Two articles published by the study authors in JAMA in 2012 demonstrated that the prevalence of obesity leveled off between 2003-04 and 2009-10, but “given the focus of public health efforts on obesity, surveillance of trends in obesity remains important,” they noted.

Cynthia L. Ogden, PhD, and colleagues from the CDC branch in Hyattsville, Md., examined trends for childhood and adult obesity among 9,120 people with measured weights and heights (or recumbent length) in the 2011-12 nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The prevalence of high weight for recumbent length, a standard measure of weight among infants and toddlers from birth to age 2, was 8.1% in 2011-12, with a notable difference between boys (5%) and girls (11.4%). Among youth (ages 2 to 19), 31.8% were either overweight or obese, and 16.9% were obese.

Among adults, 68.5% were either overweight or obese, 34.9% were obese (body mass index of 30 or greater) and 6.4% were extremely obese (BMI of 40 or greater).

Overall, there was no change from 2003-04 through 2011-12 in high weight for recumbent length among infants and toddlers or in obesity in 2- to 19-year-olds or adults. The prevalence of obesity decreased from 14% in 2003-04 to just over 8% in 2011-2012 among children ages 2 to 5, and increased in women ages 60 and older from 31.5% to more than 38%.

While the precise reasons for the decline in obesity among children ages 2 to 5 are not clear, many child care centers have started to improve their nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years, the CDC noted in a news release. In addition, CDC data show decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years.

Another possible factor might be the improvement in breast-feeding rates in the U.S., which is beneficial to staving off obesity in breast-fed children, the CDC noted in the release.

In sum, however, the study authors concluded that “obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance.”

Study abstract: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1832542


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