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No end to obesity epidemic, 20-year forecast shows

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

FILE - In this May 2, 2012 file photo, Washougal Mayor Sean Guard, left, coaxes Camas Mayor Scott Higgins to step on the scales during their weigh-in in Washougal, Wash. The mayors of the two neighboring towns are in a "Biggest Loser" style contest to see which of the two communities can lose the most weight. New government projections suggest roughly 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030.
(AP Photo/Don Ryan)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The obesity epidemic may be slowing, but don't take in those pants yet.

Today, just over a third of U.S. adults are obese. By 2030, 42 percent will be, says a forecast released Monday.

That's not nearly as many as experts had predicted before the once-rapid rises in obesity rates began leveling off. But the new forecast suggests even small continuing increases will add up.

"We still have a very serious problem," said obesity specialist Dr. William Dietz of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Worse, the already obese are getting fatter. Severe obesity will double by 2030, when 11 percent of adults will be nearly 100 pounds overweight, or more, concluded the research led by Duke University.

That could be an ominous consequence of childhood obesity. Half of severely obese adults were obese as children, and they put on more pounds as they grew up, said CDC's Dietz.

While being overweight increases anyone's risk of diabetes, heart disease and a host of other ailments, the severely obese are most at risk -- and the most expensive to treat. Already, conservative estimates suggest obesity-related problems account for at least 9 percent of the nation's yearly health spending, or $150 billion a year.

Data presented Monday at a major CDC meeting paint something of a mixed picture of the obesity battle. There's some progress: Clearly, the skyrocketing rises in obesity rates of the 1980s and '90s have ended. But Americans aren't getting thinner.

Over the past decade, obesity rates stayed about the same in women, while men experienced a small rise, said CDC's Cynthia Ogden. That increase occurred mostly in higher-income men, for reasons researchers couldn't explain.

About 17 percent of the nation's children and teens were obese in 2009 and 2010, the latest available data. That's about the same as at the beginning of the decade, although a closer look by Ogden shows continued small increases in boys, especially African-American boys.

Does that mean obesity has plateaued? Well, some larger CDC databases show continued upticks, said Duke University health economist Eric Finkelstein, who led the new CDC-funded forecast. His study used that information along with other factors that influence obesity rates -- including food prices, prevalence of fast-food restaurants, unemployment -- to come up with what he called "very reasonable estimates" for the next two decades.

Part of the reason for the continuing rise is that the population is growing and aging. People ages 45 to 64 are most likely to be obese, Finkelstein said.

Today, more than 78 million U.S. adults are obese, defined as having a body-mass index of 30 or more. BMI is a measure of weight for height. Someone who's 5-feet-5 would be termed obese at 180 pounds, and severely obese with a BMI of 40 -- 240 pounds.

The new forecast suggests 32 million more people could be obese in 2030 -- adding $550 billion in health spending over that time span, Finkelstein said.

"If nothing is done, this is going to really hinder efforts to control health care costs," added study co-author Justin Trogdon of RTI International.

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And some have the nerve to talk about smokers, this problem is ten times worse medically than smoking the health care cost will be tremendous.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Mon, May 7, 2012, at 5:48 PM

swampeastmissouri: Health care costs for both smokers & the obese is cheaper than for health non-smokers. Fat people & smokers cost more per year of life, but they die years sooner and thus have a lower lifetime cost.

Here is just one study of health care costs


"Until age 56 y, annual health expenditure was highest for obese people. At older ages, smokers incurred higher costs. Because of differences in life expectancy, however, lifetime health expenditure was highest among healthy-living people and lowest for smokers. Obese individuals held an intermediate position. Alternative values of epidemiologic parameters and cost definitions did not alter these conclusions."

Smoking & Obesity are bad from a public health perspective, but on a strictly cost basis they provide enormous health care savings.

-- Posted by Nil on Tue, May 8, 2012, at 12:57 AM

All ya gotta do is walk into any Wal-Mart and see the problem. I swear, I've never seen so many fat people in my life than at the average Wal-Mart. The store has had to provide more of those electric shopping carts for the fat people, who are too fat to walk around in the store. Now they don't have to.........they can drive their Wal-Mart carts around and gather up their beer and snack foods.

-- Posted by Raunchy on Tue, May 8, 2012, at 7:29 AM

the guy in the green doesn't look OBESE... and the guy in the orange just looks like he likes to drink a lot of beer. maybe the guy in the green is sucking in his stomach... in hopes that will help with his numbers on the scale. personally i would be most concerned with man boobs or back boobs.

-- Posted by TommyStix on Tue, May 8, 2012, at 10:23 AM

The commercial airlines had to change all of there seats out and replace them with wider seats because people were growing so fast in size. The obsese problem is a very serious health problem I see many everyday carrying around these 44 oz sodas I talked to one lady and she said that she drank three of these a day not diet cola either. They just continue to eat and not watching there diets and also not exercising every day.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Tue, May 8, 2012, at 10:33 AM

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