About a third of people in nine states were obese in 2009, a dramatic increase from 2007, when only three states had obesity rates that high, a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
People are obese if they are roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight. Obesity raises the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, many cancers and other diseases.
"Obesity is common, serious and costly and affects virtually every system in the adult body," says William Dietz, director of the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.
The data indicate that about 27% of people in the USA are obese, but that's an underestimate; more accurate government data show that about 34% of adults - almost 73 million people - are obese, the CDC says.
This state breakdown is based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey, in which 400,000 adults self-report their height and weight. The higher rate is from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is considered the gold standard because it is a national survey of people whose weight and height are actually measured.
The latest NHANES data suggest the obesity growth rate is slowing. But the prevalence remains high and continues to be a critical national public health concern, says CDC director Thomas Frieden. "If two-thirds of your town is underwater and the water is not rising anymore, that doesn't mean the problem isn't severe," he says.
Obese Americans cost the nation an estimated $147 billion in weight-related medical bills in 2008, double the amount a decade ago, government data released last summer show. Obese people have medical bills $1,429 a year higher than normal-weight people.
"Obesity is a societal problem, and it will take a societal response," Frieden says. Measures that could reduce or prevent obesity, he says:
- Increase physical activity, breast-feeding and fruit and vegetable consumption.
- Reduce screen/TV time and high-calorie food and beverage consumption, particularly sugary drinks.
- Make water freely available at meals in schools and day care, and increase the time kids are actually active in physical education class.
The survey also shows obesity rates are higher among:
- Blacks (37%), especially black women (42%), than whites (25%) or Hispanics (31%).
- Those without high school diplomas (33%) than college graduates (21%).
Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY