Monday, October 21, 2013

Hot Topics-Adult Obesity Rates

US Adult obesity rates from as recent as 2012 are out.  Overall rates are 35%, down by barely one statistically insignificant percentage point from 2009-10 rates.  The good news is obesity rates are not rising.  The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been conducted annually since 1999 and monitors the health and nutritional status of adult Americans over age 20.  The data is not self-reported but is actually measured.

Looking at gender, women are up slightly, and men are down. Rates for men did not differ from women, except for in blacks.  Fifty-seven percent of black women were obese, compared to 37% of men of the same race.

Looking at race, for black adults, the obesity rate is 48% putting that group solidly in the “almost half” range.  Wow.  Half of adult black Americans are obese, compared with 33% of whites and just 11% of Asians.  By prevalence, the largest numbers of obese persons are white (50 million plus).  Another wow.
Looking at age, middle-aged adults ages 40-59 had the highest rates, followed by younger adults 20-39.   

This table presents a summary of the latest data.

Group   Obesity Rate %
Overall   35
Women   36
Men   34
Blacks   48
Hispanics   43
Whites   33
Asians   11
Being obese is having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30.  In a 5’4” person, the cut off is 174 pounds.  In a 5’9” person, this is 203 pounds. Risk of chronic disease may be impacted by factors such as body composition and fat distribution that are not captured by BMI.  By definition, obesity (BMI>/=30) rates include those that are overweight (BMI >/=25).  If we added the percent of adults that are in the overweight range (BMI 25-29) to the percent that are obese, the overall percent of adults at an unhealthy weight for height would be alarmingly higher.

Alarming enough is that the prevalence of obesity among adults continues to be greater than one-third of the US population.  Where are our role models for children?

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