U.S. Obesity Rate Could Hit 42 Percent By 2030

By Amir Khan on May 7, 2012 7:25 PM EDT

Obesity
Is high-fructose corn syrup driving the obesity epidemic? (Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble)

Americans' waistlines are expanding at an alarming rate, and if the trend continues, almost half of the country could be obese by 2030, according to new research published at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Weight of the Nation" meeting on Monday.

In less than 20 years, the obesity rate could hit 42 percent, which will mean billions of dollars in added health care expenses, researchers from Duke University said. The increase would mean more than 30 million new obese Americans on top of 78 million already.

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"Should these forecasts prove accurate, the adverse health and cost consequences of obesity are likely to continue to escalate without a significant intervention," Justin Trogdon, study author and health economist for RTI International, told HealthDay.

More than 35 percent of adults in the U.S. older than 20 are obese. In 1985, no state had an obesity rate higher than 14 percent. By 2010, no state had an obesity rate lower than 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Obesity is linked to other dangerous health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Obese Americans spend thousands of dollars for health care, according to the CDC, and across the country, obesity-related health costs total $147 billion annually.

Researchers said stemming the increase should be of national importance. A 1 percent less increase would mean almost 3 million fewer obese people and save $4.7 billion.

"We know more than ever about the most successful strategies that will help Americans live healthier, more active lives and reduce obesity rates and medical costs." Dr. William Dietz, director of CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, told HealthDay.

Promoting health eating and exercise are the best way to stop the trend, researchers said. However, that might be difficult, Rebecca Puhl, director of research of Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, who was not involved in the research, told USA Today. The United States has a culture of overeating, and changing it may require government intervention.

"If we want to reduce obesity, we have to change the conditions that created it in the first place, with less advertising of unhealthy foods to children, easier access to healthy foods for everyone, improved physical education requirements in all schools, environments that make it easier for people to be active, and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages," she said.

The research is also published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine

Childhood obesity is growing quickly as well. More than 12.5 million American children ages 2 through 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the number of obese children has tripled since 1980. Health care costs related to childhood obesity totaled $3 billion in 2009, according to a study published in Nature.

Limiting your child's time spent in front of the television and computer can help reduce the obesity rate. Children spend almost eight hours a day in front of the TV and computer, limiting their exercise time. Food advertisements also influence children to make unhealthy food choices, according to a 2001 study published in Pediatrics Clinics of North America.

Exercise is the key to a healthy diet. The USDA recommends that children exercise 60 minutes per day, but most children fall far short. Only 18 percent of high school students met that requirement in 2007, according to the CDC.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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