Over 73% of U.S. Adults Overweight or Obese | MedPage Today

Primary Care>Obesity  –  Over 73% of U.S. Adults Overweight or Obese

— Obesity rate up by half since 1999-2000, NHANES data indicate; near ly 10% severely obese

by Kristen Monaco, Staff Writer, MedPage Today December 11, 2020

An obese Mexican-American woman making fruit salad in the kitchen as another woman and child look on.

About 42% of American adults had obesity in 2017-2018, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data showed.

Among adults ages 20 and older, 42.4% were identified as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, while 9.2% had severe obesity, defined as a BMI of 40 or higher, reported Cheryl Fryar, MSPH, of the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, and colleagues.

Another 30.7% of American adults were overweight, with a BMI of 25 to 29.9.

When the results were stratified by age, adults 40 to 59 saw the highest rates of obesity, with 45% of this age group with a BMI of 30 or higher. Middle-aged men had the highest prevalence of obesity, at a rate of 46%.

Not surprisingly, the rates of obesity also varied according to ethnicity.

Most notably, non-Hispanic Asian Americans consistently and overwhelmingly had the lowest rates of obesity, with only 18% and 17% of Asian men and women having a BMI over 30 in the most recent survey period.

On the other hand, Mexican American adults had some of the highest rates, with 51% of men and 50% of women with obesity. Similarly, 41% of non-Hispanic Black men had obesity, as did 57% of Black adult women.

« Although BMI is widely used as a measure of body fat, at a given BMI level, body fat may vary by sex, age, and race and Hispanic origin, » Fryar’s group wrote. « In particular, research suggests that health risks may begin at a lower BMI among Asian persons compared with others. »

The current prevalence of obesity in the U.S. is in stark contrast to what the nation looked like several decades ago.

In national data from the survey period of 1960-1962, only about 13.4% of adults had obesity and less than 1% had severe obesity. And during that same survey period, about 31.5% of American adults were considered overweight.

From the early 1960s to today, however, the rates of obesity steadily increased each decade, doubling from 15% in 1976-1980 to 30.9% in 1999-2000.

But since the turn of the century, the rise in obesity rates seemed to slow down a bit despite still increasing. For example, the only times that obesity rates actually fell in the past 60 years was in 2007-2008 and again in 2011-2012.

Regarding children, the researchers found that 19.3% of Americans ages 2-19 had obesity, defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile on the growth chart. This included about 6.1% of kids who were identified as having severe obesity, measured as a BMI at or above 120% of the 95th percentile.

In addition to this, another 16.1% of U.S. children were overweight during the 2017-2018 survey period, defined as at or above the 85th percentile on the sex-specific BMI-for-age growth chart.

At this time, the rates of obesity were highest among teens: 21% of those ages 12-19 had obesity, with the rates for teen boys slightly higher than for teen girls (23% vs 20%).

Similar to in adults, the obesity rates followed similar ethnic patterns among kids. As for boys, the highest rates of obesity were seen among those of Mexican American (29%) and Hispanic (28%) descent, whereas for girls, the highest rates of obesity were among Black (29%) and Mexican American (25%) children and adolescents.

Again similar to the situation in adults, obesity in American kids followed a trajectory over the past several decades. In the 1971-1974 survey period, only 5% of U.S. kids had obesity, with only 1% of this subset having severe obesity; only 10% of kids were then overweight.

author['full_name']Kristen Monaco is a staff writer, focusing on endocrinology, psychiatry, and dermatology news. Based out of the New York City office, she’s worked at the company for nearly five years.

Primary Source

NCHS Health E-Stat

Source Reference: Fryar C, et al « Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 1960–1962 through 2017–2018 » NCHS Health E-Stats; 2020.

Secondary Source

NCHS Health E-Stat

Source Reference: Fryar C, et al « Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among children and adolescents aged 2-19 years: United States, 1963–1965 through 2017–2018 » NCHS Health E-Stats; 2020.