Obesity in America is becoming more common, especially among the aging population.
In its latest Data Brief, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated 36.5% of U.S. adults were obese during the latest monitoring period, 2011-2014.
While recent concern has focused on obesity among children, the CDC report found the people most likely to be obese are middle-aged adults aged 40–59 and older adults aged 60 or over.
Obesity is a more serious condition than merely being overweight. The difference is determined by the body mass index (BMI), which is a formula based on a person's height and weight.
Having a BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight. Having a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.
In its report, the CDC found the prevalence of obesity was higher in women than in men. Among all youth, no difference was seen by sex.
And among youth, the obesity rate has leveled off at 17%. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says that's the report's one sign of progress.
“The obesity rate is declining for the youngest children, and has held steady for all children over the last two measurement periods,” Lavizzo-Mourney said. This reinforces our confidence that America's children are moving toward a healthier weight, and that bodes well for the long term health of our nation.”
At the same time, Lavizzo-Mourney said the fact that the adult obesity rate is rising is a cause of concern. She notes that rates are highest among Hispanic and black teenagers and adults. And women, she says, have overtaken men in the obese category.
Areas of action
“We will continue to address these inequities, and the many barriers to growing up and living a healthy life, Lavizzo-Mourney said. “Nutritious, affordable foods are out of reach for too many families, young people still see far too many ads for sugar-laden snack foods and beverages, and too few of our communities provide adequate safe, accessible spaces for kids to be active.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is spending an additional $500 million in 2015 on anti-obesity programs.
The CDC says the prevalence of obesity among adults is still higher than the Healthy People 2020 goal of 30.5%. Although the overall prevalence of childhood obesity is higher than the Healthy People 2020 goal of 14.5%, the CDC says there are signs of progress among the youngest children in the survey, those aged 2–5 years.