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Obesity Epidemic Balloons to New Girth

New CDC Numbers Show 32% of Adults Are Obese
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Kids at Risk for Overweight

The obesity epidemic is so large, it's offsetting the gains of a century of medical research.

"It is a disaster that is happening," Stampfer says. "We have made so many health advances that are being obscured and diminished by the increase in obesity and overweight. If not for that, there would be stunning achievements in good health."

As bad as the implications are for adults, they may be even worse for overweight children. The numbers, covering the years 2003-2004, are numbing:

  • Among kids 2-5 years old, 12% are at risk of being overweight (in the 85th weight percentile for their sex and age) and 14% are already overweight (in the 95th percentile).
  • Among kids 6-11 years old, 18% are at risk of being overweight and 19% are overweight.
  • Among kids 12-19 years old, 17% are at risk of being overweight and 17% are overweight.
  • All these numbers are up from the 1999-2000 time period. For example, the overall rate of overweight for kids 2-19 years old went up from 14% to 17%.

Health Risks of Obesity

"These overweight kids are on track for continued obesity into adulthood unless big changes are made," Stampfer says. "They are at high risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis -- all the bad things that happen more to people who are overweight."

The problem, Ogden suggests, is that a boom in consumption of high-calorie food has collided with a trend toward less exercise. And as humans, we are genetically programmed to save all this excess energy as fat.

"We have increasing food portion sizes, we eat out more, we have changes in the composition of the diet," she says. "There has been survey data showing an increase in calorie consumption. And physical activity -- well, we are not very active. There have been increases in screen time for kids. The general thing is it is a complex problem related to many things, including our environment, our actions, and our genes."

Society's Role

These overweight kids may be heading for deep trouble unless -- as a society -- we act, Stampfer says.

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