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Obesity rate steady- or is it?

On November 28, the National Center for Health Statistics released a report entitled “Obesity in the United States—No Statistically Significant Change Since 2003-2004.”  The report promised that the obesity rate was leveling off from a long increase since 1980, but it left a few questions to be answered.

The National Center for Health Statistics, an office of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, has monitored obesity statistics for decades in the United States, and this latest report includes data from the last thirty years, beginning in 1976.

The report summarizes that the percentage of obese adults across the country, which had increased significantly from 1976-1980 to 2003-2004, has ceased to increase since that time.  With some small celebration, the report claimed that levels were staying relatively level.

This is certainly encouraging news, since obesity is associated with many health risks, including high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.  It’s one step in the right direction, one step, as the report says, toward the “Healthy People (HP) objective of an obesity prevalence less than 15%,” which was last achieved in 1980.

Unfortunately, the data cited in the study doesn’t bear out the conclusions.  From 1980 to 2003, the percentage of obese adults more than doubled from 15% to 32.1%.  From the 2003-2004 average, the percentage increased slightly (by 2.2%) to 34.3%.  The report categorized this slight increase as a leveling off in the obesity explosion.

What the conclusion of the report does not consider is the following: from 1980 to 2003, obesity increased at a rate of 0.74% per year.  From 2003-2004 to 2005-2006, obesity increased at a rate of 1.1% per year.  The rate has not slowed over the past four years; in fact, it is accelerating!

So, for now at any rate, America, we are fat and getting fatter.

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