Losing Weight Becomes A Bigger Challenge As Obesity Expands In America, Studies Show

Teri Webster - Author

Jun. 7 2016, Updated 6:52 p.m. ET

Losing weight presents a challenge that is a losing battle for many Americans, two new studies show.

Yes, Americans are living large – and not in a good way. Despite warnings from doctors, health care agencies and others, our waistlines are continuing to grow.

About 38 percent of all adults in the nation are now considered not just overweight, but obese. That figure includes 35 percent of men and 40 percent of women, a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows.

Another study by JAMA found that 17 percent of children are now considered obese.

To be considered obese, an adult must have a body mass index, (BMI) of 30 or more. People with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 are categorized as normal, while the 35 to 29.9 range is seen as overweight.

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The study shows that women are more likely to be obese than men. About 35 percent of men were obese, the study showed, compared to 40.4 percent of women. Among women, 9.9 percent were morbidly obese, compared to 5.5 percent of men. Since 2005, the figures were unchanged among men, while obesity increased slightly for women. The data comes from a study of 5,455 adults who participated in a 2013-14 survey by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

“The news is neither good nor surprising,” researchers wrote in a summary. They referred to obesity as an “unrelenting challenge,” in the American struggle for losing weight.

Age and ethnicity also play a factor.

It’s no surprise that growing older makes losing weight more of a challenge. Middle age is a key time for a growing midsection. According to researchers, 41 percent of adults in the 40-to-50-years-old age bracket were obese. Just 34 percent of adults in their 20s and 30s. Thirty-nine percent of people over age 60 were obese.

Asian Americans show the lowest obesity rate at 13 percent. That compares to 48 percent of blacks, 43 percent of Hispanics and 36 percent of white people, according to researchers.

The waistlines of our nation’s children are also continuing to grow. For teenagers, obesity rates have increased steadily since 1988, according to the study. A survey of 7017 youths from ages two to 18 found that 17 percent were obese, while 5.8 percent were considered extremely obese.

Education levels of parents or guardians appear to be one factor that can determine whether children are obese. When children are living in homes with one or more parent that attended college, they are less likely to become obese. In contrast, children whose parents who dropped out or attained a high school degree were 41 percent and 61 percent more likely, respectively, to be obese. This is particularly true for teenagers, whose obesity levels have continued to rise over the past 26 years.


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