Nation still getting fatter, but at a slower pace

TIM BRINTON
TIM BRINTON
Posted: May 12, 2012

A sobering new report on obesity has more bad news about the country’s losing battle against the bulge. Americans are getting fatter, but at a slightly slower rate, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Currently, more than a third of U.S. adults are obese. But the numbers will likely jump drastically by 2030 to include an additional 32 million people. The report said 42 percent of the population will be obese and 11 percent will be severely obese — 100 pounds or more overweight.

The obesity forecast — while grim — is not quite as bad as experts had predicted. It had been feared that as much as 50 percent of the population would be obese in 18 years.

Nevertheless, the country suffers from an epidemic that has impacted a staggering number of not only adults but children at increasingly younger ages. About 17 percent of children and teens were obese in 2010.

Obesity-related health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, are a drain on the health-care system and account for at least 9 percent of the nation’s yearly health spending, or $150 billion a year.

The good news: Researchers say the once-skyrocketing obesity problem, which became an epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, may have reached a plateau. But the rates still present a serious public-health concern.

Making sure the obesity trend continues to move downward requires a national strategy that continues to put a spotlight on the problem while offering practical solutions to help more Americans adopt healthy lifestyles.

Some good recommendations were outlined this week by the Institute of Medicine in a sweeping 478-report outlining the dramatic changes needed to address obesity. The ideas range from requiring at least 60 minutes of daily physical education and activity in schools to urging employers and insurers to provide discounts on premiums for completing weight-loss programs.

The recommendations fall in line with the “Let’s Move” campaign launched by first lady Michelle Obama in an effort to end childhood obesity within the next generation. Her program encourages parents to make better food choices, schools to serve healthier meals, and communities to increase the availability of affordable and healthy food.

These good changes would put the country on a healthier track. More public education and awareness are also necessary ingredients to encourage Americans to slim down.

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