Study: Chronic disease rates being fed by steady rise in obesity
ST. LOUIS — New research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that an escalation in the number of those considered obese or overweight in the United States continues, signaling an ongoing upward swing in chronic health conditions as well.
The study points out that because clinical practice for the prevention and treatment of chronic conditions has focused on screening high-risk populations, people in higher-weight categories are more likely to be diagnosed with weight-associated diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and some cancers. The study was published online Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Compared with a similar study published in 1999 that estimated 63% of men and 55% of women age 25 and older were overweight or obese, the new data from 2007-12 indicate that nearly 75% of men and 67% of women now are overweight or obese.
“This is a wake-up call to implement policies and practices designed to combat overweight and obesity,” the study’s first author, Lin Yang, a postdoctoral research associate in public health at the School of Medicine, said. “An effort that spans multiple sectors must be made to stop or reverse this trend that is compromising and shortening the lives of many.”
Adult Americans who are obese now outnumber those who are considered overweight, according to the new findings, which estimate that 67.6 million Americans over the age of 25 are obese and an additional 65.2 million are overweight.
Parsing the data in the new study, the researchers found that African-Americans have the highest rates of obesity, with 39% of black men and 57% of black women considered obese. The researchers also found that 17% of black women are extremely obese, meaning their body mass index is over 40, as are 7% of black men.
Among Mexican-Americans in the study, 38% of men and 43% of women are obese. For whites, 35% of men and 34% of women are obese.
In the new study, Yang and Graham Colditz, a disease-prevention expert and deputy director of the university’s Institute for Public Health, estimated the prevalence of obesity and those who are considered overweight, by gender, age and race/ethnicity. The sample size included 15,208 men and women aged 25 and older, which is representative of more than 188 million people.
Colditz also was a co-author on the earlier 1999 study, which used survey data collected from 1988-94.