We’re fat, and that’s not changing

CHICAGO — America’s obesity epidemic is proving to be as stubborn as those maddening love handles, and it shows no sign of reversing course.

More than one-third of adults and almost 17 percent of children were obese in 2009-10, echoing results since 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

"It’s good that we didn’t see increase," CDC researcher Cynthia Ogden said. "On the other hand, we didn’t see any decreases in any group."

Early in the decade, slight increases were seen among white, black and Hispanic men, and among Hispanic and black women. These changes may be leveling off, but the authors said they "found no indication that the prevalence of obesity is declining in any group."

In 2009-2010, more than 78 million adults and almost 13 million children aged 2-19 were obese, the CDC researchers reported.

Those numbers are staggering, and while they haven’t increased in recent years, "we’re plateauing at an unacceptably high prevalence rate," said Dr. David Ludwig, director of an obesity prevention center at Children’s Hospital Boston. He was not involved in the reports.

The CDC reports summarize results of national health surveys in children and adults, which are conducted every two years. The nationally representative surveys include in-person weight and height measurements. The 2009-2010 reports involved nearly 6,000 adults and about 4,000 children, from infancy through age 19.

The results were released online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Elbert Huang, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago who studies health care policy issues, said his research shows that even if obesity rates continue to remain stable, there will be dramatic increases down the road in diabetes and in costs linked with that disease. That’s because Type 2 diabetes, among many diseases linked with obesity, becomes more prevalent as people age.

The latest reports — one on children and the other on adults — focused on obesity, meaning a body-mass index of at least 30. But the numbers of adults and children who were overweight, with a BMI of between 25 and 29, also remained high.

Thirty-three percent of adults were overweight but not obese, versus about 15 percent of children and teens. Rates of overweight or obese adults and children were higher in blacks and Hispanics than in whites.

The government says a healthy weight is a BMI of between 18 and 25. The index is a ratio of height to weight.

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