- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2013

The newly reopened federal government offered some hefty news Thursday: the U.S. obesity rate remains substantial, with more than a third of the nation’s adults officially in big-person clothes.

This translates into more than 78 million adults, including 50 million white Americans, with body mass indexes of 30 or more, said the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

The 2011-2012 U.S. obesity rate of 35 percent wasn’t larger — or smaller — than the previous estimate made in 2009-2010, the agency said.

Examples of obesity include an adult who is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 174 pounds or more, or an adult who is 5 feet, 9 inches and weighs 203 pounds or more.

The new figures are the first to include estimates for Asian adults, and they confirmed that obesity is relatively uncommon among that demographic: Less than 11 percent of Asian adults were in the heavyweight category.

The only major disparity by gender was among black Americans. Black women had the highest level of obesity — nearly 6 in 10 — while 37 percent of black men were obese.

Among whites, about 32 percent of men and 33 percent of women were obese, while among Hispanics, 40 percent of men and 44 percent of women were obese.

For Asians, 10 percent of men and 11 percent of women were obese.

Numerically, the U.S. obesity distribution included 50.2 million whites, 13.4 million Hispanics, 12.2 million blacks and 1.2 million Asians.

The NCHS data also showed that packing on the pounds in middle age is common: Almost 40 percent of adults aged 40 to 59 were obese.

In comparison, in the 20-39 age group, only 29 percent of men and 32 percent of women tipped the high end of the scales.

Among seniors, 60 and older, about 32 percent of men and 38 percent of women were obese.

“The health risks associated with obesity make reducing the high prevalence of obesity a public health priority,” said the NCHS report, written by Cynthia L. Ogden and her colleagues.

The current public health goal is to reduce U.S. obesity to 30.5 percent by 2020.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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