- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2019

A team of public health researchers predicts that almost half of U.S. adults will be obese and almost a quarter of them will be severely obese by 2030.

The researchers concluded that 48.9% of U.S. adults will be obese in a decade and that obesity prevalence will be higher than 50% in 29 states and not below 35% in any state, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“The numbers are alarming considering how much attention is being given to the obesity epidemic,” said Dr. Rekha Kumar, medical director of the American Board of Obesity, who was not involved in the study.

The study, led by researchers at Harvard and George Washington universities, also found severe obesity will affect 24.2% of U.S. adults and half of the states will have obesity rates of at least 25%.

“Especially worrisome is the projected rise in the prevalence of severe obesity, which is associated with even higher mortality and morbidity and health care costs,” the researchers said.



“Severe obesity is thus poised to become as prevalent as overall obesity was in the 1990s,” the researchers said. “Indeed, our projections suggest that severe obesity may become the most common BMI [body mass index] category among adults in 10 states by 2030.”

Obesity is linked to higher chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some cancers, osteoarthritis and breathing problems.

It is measured by the body mass index, a value calculated using weight and height. An underweight or normal BMI is under 24; overweight is 25 to 30; obese is 30 to 35 and severely obese is 35 and over.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 93.3 million U.S. adults, or 40%, are obese.

Certain subgroups of the population appear to be more susceptible to obesity — women, non-Hispanic blacks and low-income adults, the researchers note. They anticipate severe obesity will become the most common among women (28%), low-income adults (32%) and non-Hispanic blacks (32%).

The researchers also project that severe obesity will be the most common BMI category in 44 states among adults with an average annual household income of less than $20,000 and one state among adults with a yearly income that exceeds $50,000.

Dr. Harold Bays, chief science officer for the Obesity Medicine Association, said he is not surprised by some of the predictions made by the researchers, but pointed out they will not necessarily come true.

“There is hope. There are things available. It is not as dire as it seems,” Dr. Bays said, adding the U.S. has the tools to combat obesity but it’s a matter of making the health issue a national priority.

He said most people are recognizing obesity as a disease and noted that there are specialists who treat obesity with medical procedures such as bariatric surgery.

For people with obesity, Dr. Kumar said even losing a small amount, about 5% of body weight, can offer health benefits. She added that more early education in schools and training medical students about obesity and nutrition could help tackle the problem.

The CDC reported in June a decline in obesity among preschool children receiving government food aid. National health experts found that about 14% of children ages two to four years in a supplemental nutrition program were obese in 2016, a drop from 16% in 2010.

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