U.S. obesity leveling off, but at high rate: report

Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:16pm EDT
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By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Obesity levels among adults appear to be holding steady across the United States, adding to recent evidence that the growth rate for U.S. waistlines is slowing, according to an analysis released on Friday.

But within the holding pattern there is a dramatic rise in "extreme" obesity among adults and children.

The annual "F as in Fat" report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the proportion of adults who are extremely obese - at least 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms) overweight - has climbed over the last three decades from 1.4 percent in the late 1970s to 6.3 percent in 2009-2010.

That is about a 350 percent increase, researchers for the health nonprofit groups said. About 5 percent of children and teenagers are also now severely obese, they added. Rates of extreme obesity were nearly twice as high for women as for men, and were also particularly high for Hispanic boys and black girls.

"As long as we continue to see those increases in extreme obesity, I think we need to be worried," Trust for America's Health Executive Director Jeffrey Levi told Reuters.

Overall, the report found obesity rates stabilizing across the United States, though at historically high levels with nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults obese as of 2010. Only one state, Arkansas, had an increase in obesity levels.

The findings follow this month's announcement that the obesity rate among low-income children between the ages of 2 and 4 dropped slightly, after 30 years of increases.

"After decades of bad news, we're finally seeing signs of progress," researchers for the two health groups wrote in Friday's report that said government efforts to encourage healthier diets and more exercise were paying off.   Continued...

A sign hanging in bariatric surgeon Dr. Michael Snyder's office shows some of the risks of obesity including stroke, sleep apnea and cancer Denver September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Wilking