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How Americans Stack Up continued...

Similar racial/ethnic differences were found in children and teens aged 2 through 19, with about a quarter of African-Americans in that age group meeting the definition of obesity. As with adults, the researchers write, BMI “is an imperfect measure of body fat.”

“It is not clear, however, if body fatness is a stronger predictor of obesity-related health outcomes than is BMI,” the researchers say.

Some researchers have suggested that 30% of U.S. youth will be obese by 2030, but, the authors write, their data “suggest that the rapid increases in obesity prevalence seen in the 1980s and 1990s have not continued in this decade.”

Risks of Obesity Starting to Hit Home?

So have Americans finally begun to heed health messages about the risks of obesity? “I’m reluctant to speculate too much,” Flegal says.

Besides, she says, “there would be no real reason to expect the prevalence to go up and up and up. If you think it’s going to go up with time, it assumes there’s some obesity-increasing factor that’s going to increase with time.”

Perhaps Americans couldn’t get any heavier, theorizes Kelly Brownell, PhD, director of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

“Maybe we just hit some natural plateau, where it simply can’t go any higher,” Brownell tells WebMD. “It’s somewhat of a victory, but the numbers are plateauing at a disastrous rate.”

Still, he says, “there have been some very significant changes in the way the country looks at the problem.” Instead of debating the merits of different diets, Brownell says, the press and the public are focusing on measures to prevent obesity, such as improving nutrition in schools and charging a soda tax. “The country is moving in the right direction,” he says.

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