A new report shows that American waistlines continue to expand, despite decreases in the consumption of junk food and sugary drink, with women and certain minority groups seeing the largest increases in obesity.
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a national survey conducted every two years, 36.5 percent of adults and 17 percent of youth were obese from 2011-2014, with adult obesity levels rising from approximately 32 percent in 2003 to roughly 38 percent in 2014.
While the change was not statistically significant year to year, the data shows an overall trend of rising obesity rates over the past decade, despite numerous state and federal efforts to curb the problem.
Overall, adult women showed higher obesity rates than men, at 38 percent compared to 34 percent among men. Adults who were older also tended to be more obese: 40 percent of adults in their 40s and 50s were obese, while 37 percent of adults aged 60 or over were obese.
Children, on the other hand, did not show significant changes in obesity levels. Around 17 percent of youth were obese in 2011 to 2014, a rate which has remained more or less level since 2003.
Results also show significant differences in obesity among ethnic groups: Black and Hispanic adults showed the highest obesity rates, at 48 and 42.5 percent, respectively, followed by white adults at 34.5 percent. Asian adults were the least obese, at around 12 percent.
Black and Hispanic women in particular showed the highest obesity rates: slightly more than half of all black women were obese from 2011-2014 (57 percent) and almost half (46 percent) of all Hispanic women were obese. These high rates have in part driven the overall differences between obese men and women, says Cynthia Ogden, the lead author on the survey.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey measures obesity using the Body Mass Index. It is considered the gold standard for national health data, says Ogden, primarily because researchers ensure its participants are nationally representative, as well as actually measure the height and weight of their subjects.
The survey's results come after years of public health campaigns aimed at addressing obesity, such as efforts to encourage fitness and healthier nutrition and to cut soda consumption. A 2011 study estimates that obesity costs the U.S. nearly $210 billion each year.
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