CDC report says obesity rates in the U.S. show alarming increase

An overweight man sitting on the beach dwarfing a young girl

A CDC report cites an alarming increase in U.S. obesity rates for every state, as well as the rising medical cost of obesity. Kyle May/Flickr photo.

Obesity rates in the U.S. are trending upward rapidly. The Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday released a biennial report on obese Americans. The CDC obesity report said that that 2.4 million more Americans became obese from 2007 to 2009, bringing the total to 72.5 million, or 26.7 percent of the population. The report estimates the medical costs of obesity to be as high as $147 billion a year, and stated that medical costs for obese people were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

U.S. obesity rates increase faster than expected

Obesity rates in the U.S. reached 30 percent or more in nine states last year, as opposed to only three states in 2007, according to the CDC obesity report. Only Colorado and Washington, D.C. had obesity rates less than 20 percent. As reported in the New York Times, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, said obesity rates have increased over the past several decades faster than anyone imagined they would, despite decades-long initiatives like the Healthy People 2010 program. Frieden said if the numbers keep going up, more people will get sick and die from the complications of obesity, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

CDC obesity rates likely underestimated

The CDC obesity rates in the report are likely underestimated because they are based on a phone survey that asked 400,000 people about their height and weight — instead of having it measured by someone else. The Times noted that people tend to describe themselves as taller and lighter than they really are. The data was used to calculate their body mass index (BMI). An adult is considered obese with a BMI of 30 or above. A 5-foot-4 woman who weighs 174 pounds or more, or a 5-foot-10 man who weighs 209 pounds or more has a BMI of 30.

Healthy People 2010 a dismal failure

Overall, there was a 1.1 percent increase in obese Americans, which translates to 2.4 million people. In a piece on the CDC obesity report, Health News noted that in 2000, no state had an obesity rate of 30 percent or more. In the last CDC obesity report, published in 2007, three states had hit 30 percent. By 2009 the number of states with an obesity rate of 30 percent or more had tripled to nine states. Not a single state had an obesity rate below 15 percent, the goal of  Healthy People 2010, a program started in 2000 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Friedan noted that “past efforts and investments to prevent and control obesity have not been adequate.”

America’s ‘obesogenic’ society

On its Obesity webpage, the CDC describes American society as “obesogenic,” meaning people live in environments that promote over-eating, unhealthy food and physical inactivity. An HHS survey released earlier this year stated that one-third of obese adults and most children never received advice from a doctor about healthy eating and exercise.

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