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Obesity Rates Leveling Off Among U.S. Adults

But more than a third of Americans still weigh much too much, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity among American adults hasn't increased much in recent years, but there are still far too many adults who are overweight, a new federal study reports.

The study, based on 2005-06 data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, found:

  • More than a third of American adults (about 72 million) were obese in 2005-06. In 2005-06, 33.3 percent of men and 35.3 percent of women were obese, compared with 31.1 percent of men and 33.2 percent of women in 2003-04.
  • Obesity prevalence was highest among adults ages 40-59. About 40 percent of men in this age group were obese, compared with 28 percent of men ages 20-39, and 32 percent of men 60 and older. Among women, 41 percent of those ages 40-59 were obese, compared with 30.5 percent among women ages 20-39. The obesity rate among women 65 and older was similar to that of women ages 20-39.
  • Among women, there were large racial/ethnic differences in obesity rates. About 53 percent of non-Hispanic black women and 51 percent of Mexican-American women ages 40-59 were obese, compared to about 39 percent of non-Hispanic white women of the same age. Among women 60 and older, 61 percent of non-Hispanic black women were obese, compared to 37 percent of Mexican-American women and 32 percent of non-Hispanic white women.

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) of 30 or greater. A person 5-feet, 7-inches tall who weighs 195 pounds has a BMI of 30.5

Obesity rates among American adults have increased over the past 25 years, but the increases seem to have slowed in recent years, experts say.

"Since 1999, there appears to have been a leveling off in obesity among women, but the trend is less clear among men. We do know however that the gap between men and women has narrowed in recent years, with men catching up to the higher rates among women," study lead author Cynthia Ogden, a researcher at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about adult obesity.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Nov. 28, 2007

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