A recently released federal study indicates the U.S. obesity rates are climbing. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average American is 15 pounds or more heavier than two decades ago.
Researchers with the agency analyzed National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2011 to 2014. They discovered that the average 5 foot 9 inch man weighs just under 196 pounds, while the average 5 foot 4 inch woman weighs nearly 169 pounds. While heights have generally stayed the same for the past 20 years, both men and women weigh 15 to 16 pounds more than they did between 1988 and 1994.
According to the CDC study, children were also affected. A typical pre-teen boy weighs 13 pounds more than the average boy did in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Comparing the same time period, girls are seven pounds heavier on average.
Breaking down the numbers by race, black Americans were the hardest hit. While black men grew by one-fifth of an inch, they also increased 18 pounds. Black women, whose height remained unchanged, gained 22 pounds on average.
“We are not doing nearly enough to control and reverse the obesity epidemic and doing far too much to propagate it,” said Dr. David Katz, president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. “This is another notice of that sad fact.”
The CDC report is supported by previous studies of U.S. obesity rates. Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine last year showed 40 percent of American men were considered overweight, while 35 percent were obese. At the same time, 30 percent of American women were overweight and 37 percent were obese.
Dr. Anthony Comuzzie with the Texas Biomedical research Institute says the alarming statistics from the CDC study are only an indication of more health problems to come.
“In general the U.S. population is continuing to gain weight at a fairly rapid rate, and such an increase does not bode well for the overall health of the nation. Such findings would suggest that there will likely be an associated increase in chronic diseases, in Type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the coming years.”
Comuzzie said the likely reason Americans are putting on more weight is lifestyle. With people eating more calorie-rich foods and exercising less, the answer seems rather basic.
“If energy consumed is greater than energy expended, then there will be a gain in weight,” he said.
Using height and weight measurements, a rough calculation of a person’s body fat can be estimated. This measurement, known as the body mass index (BMI), categorizes a person as either normal, overweight, or obese.
Health experts believe that someone with a high BMI is at a greater risk for a variety of adverse conditions, especially heart disease and diabetes. It takes about 15 pounds of extra weight to increase a person’s BMI by two points and potentially put them in a higher-risk category.
While scientists believe some weight gain can be attributed to a slowing metabolism as we age, it does not account for the increase in obesity over time. The CDC study compared the same age groups for the two time periods.
The increase in U.S. obesity rates not only affects our health, but also the price of health care services. According to the latest data available from the CDC, Americans are spending nearly $150 billion annually on obesity-related medical costs.
The CDC study did not speculate on the reasons for the weight gain, but indicated U.S. obesity rates are on the rise. While it may not be clear why Americans are getting fatter, health experts agree that lifestyle changes, including increased physical activity and a healthy diet, are needed before the battle against obesity will eventually be won.
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