Overweight and Obese Nation
Today Americans are moving less than ever before, yet the amount of energy we consume has not decreased accordingly. The result is a staggering trend toward overweight and obesity, shocking doctors, insurance companies and the government into action. However, a significant reduction in the number of overweight and obese Americans will only occur when individuals become willing to control their weight. Until then, chronic disease and treatment related to excess weight will cost the US billions of dollars each year. Prior to the 1980s, most epidemiologic studies in the United States defined obesity as weight that is 20 percent over a person’s ideal weight as indicated by the Metropolitan Life Insurance tables of weight for height. It was not until 1998 that the first Federal guidelines to identify, evaluate and treat overweight and obesity were released by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in cooperation with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD). Three key measures were incorporated into the obesity equation – body mass index, (BMI) waist circumference, and a person’s risk factors for illnesses associated with obesity.
How Fat Are We?
Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9
Obesity as defined as a BMI of 30 or higher
61 percent of American adults are overweight
26 percent of American adults are obese
To calculate body mass index, the following equation is used: weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Overweight is defined as having a BMI between 25 and 29.9, obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher; and morbid obesity means a BMI greater than 40. To estimate the prevalence of overweight and obesity across the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) use data collected from the National Health Examination Surveys (NHES) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). According to the latest report released in 2000, 97 million adults in America are overweight. In the past decade, the prevalence of obesity among American adults has increased by nearly 61 percent. Experts were shocked to see that the nationwide rate of obesity rose 6 percent between 1998-1999.
In 2000, the prevalence of obesity among adults was about 19.8 percent (38.8 million people). When the statistics were broken down into subgroups, it was found that Black, non-Hispanic Americans, and Americans between the ages of 50 and 59 had the highest rates of obesity.
Childhood Obesity Statistics
Most people are born with a natural instinct for feeding the body what it needs. Babies eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. If they eat too much at one feeding, the excess is spit up. Pediatricians attribute marked increases in hunger signal a growth spurt.
But sometime between infancy and childhood, we lose the ability to respond naturally to hunger and satiety cues, and eat because it’s the right time or because the food looks good. This loss is responsible for the alarming increase in childhood overweight and obesity.
The rate of obesity in children and adolescents has doubled since 1980. The latest findings from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) show that 13 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are overweight, and 14 percent of 12 to 19 year olds are overweight, an overall increase of 2 percent since 1994.
Researchers recently studied a large number of pediatric patients in 49 primary care practices. They found 35 percent of children were either at risk for becoming overweight or were already. Their findings matched those of the CDC, and were published in the June 2000 issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
A recent study shows 35 percent of children are either at risk for becoming overweight or are already.