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U.S. Obesity Set to Boom

75% of U.S. Adults Will Be Overweight 8 Years From Now, Based on Current Obesity Statistics
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WebMD Health News

July 13, 2007 -- Three out of four U.S. adults will be either overweight or obese in 2015, and 41% will be obese, a new report predicts.

That's up from the 66% who are currently overweight or obese and 34% who are currently obese, note Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, and colleagues.

Wang works in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Human Nutrition.

Wang's team reviewed 20 studies on the growing ranks of overweight and obese kids, teens, and adults across the U.S.

The review paints a portrait of America's growing girth, with no end to the trend in sight.

Obesity Statistics

The review, published in the August edition of the journal Epidemiologic Reviews, shows that people of all ages and races are putting on extra pounds.

"The prevalence of overweight and obesity among U.S. children and adults has more than doubled since the 1970s, and the rate continues to rise," write the researchers.

The percentage of overweight and obese adults is particularly high among African-Americans and tends to be lowest among Asian-Americans.

But it's not quite that simple.

Asian-Americans born in the U.S. are four times as likely to be obese as those born overseas. Asian immigrants who've lived in the U.S. for many years are more likely to be obese than new immigrants.

Economic and community factors also play a role. People living in areas without supermarkets and gyms may have less opportunity to eat healthfully and exercise, the researchers note.

Waist Size Widening

The scale doesn't tell the whole story about a person's body. Neither does BMI (body mass index), which relates height to weight.

Weight and BMI don't show where the extra pounds are located. Location matters, because excess belly fat may make diabetes and heart disease more likely.

Wang's team found that Americans aren't just gaining weight -- they're gaining it at the waistline.

Between 1960 and 2000, average waist circumference expanded by almost 4 inches for men and nearly 7 inches for women.

Overweight Children and Teens

More than a third of U.S. kids and adolescents aged 6-19 were overweight or at risk for becoming overweight in 2003-2004, according to the review.

People can gain or lose weight at any time. But extra pounds often linger from childhood to adulthood, Wang's team notes.

"Childhood and adolescence are key times for persons to form lifelong eating and physical activity habits," write the researchers.

They call for culturally sensitive public health efforts to trim the obesity trend across the board.

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