CDC: 30.4% of Americans 20 and Older Are Obese

By Joe Setyon | June 7, 2016 | 11:59am EDT
A nurse tries on a bariatric patient simulation suit used for training at the Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) -- Nearly a third of Americans aged 20 and older reported themselves as obese in 2015, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey.

According to the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, the 30.4 percent of Americans who self-reported as obese represents a slight increase of 0.5 percent from the 29.9 percent who reported themselves as obese in 2014.

Obesity rates have been gradually rising since 1997, when the CDC started taking the survey.

In 1997, just 19.4 percent of Americans were obese, but that number jumped by 11 points over the next 18 years.

According to the CDC website, obese individuals have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared, then multiplying the result by 703.

The CDC carried out the study by conducting household interviews of noninstitutionalized civilian adults. Survey participants were allowed to self-report their own weight and height data.

The CDC further categorized the study by breaking out the obesity statistics for several demographics, such as age, gender and ethnicity.

For both men and women, adults aged 40-59 were the most likely to be obese (34.6%). Among this age group, men (36.3%) were slightly more likely than women (33%) to be obese.

Adults aged 60 and over had the next highest obesity rate at 30.1 percent.

Among racial groups, Black women had the highest prevalence of obesity at 45 percent, followed by Black men (35.1 percent), Hispanic women (32.6 percent), and Hispanic men (32 percent). White men (30.2 percent) and White women (27.2 percent) were the least likely to be obese.  

The rise in obesity is accompanied by an increased prevalence of diabetes in American adults aged 18 and over, according to another report in the CDC’s National Survey.

A total of  9.5 percent of survey participants reported that they had been diagnosed with diabetes at some point in their lives, up from 9.1 percent in 2014 and 5.1 percent in 1997.

Adults over the age of 65 (21.7 percent)  were the most likely to have received a diabetes diagnosis, compared to 2.2 percent of people aged 18-44. Blacks (12.5 percent) and Hispanics (11.9 percent) had a greater chance than Whites (7.2 percent) of being diagnosed.  

Obesity among American adults has steadily increased despite federal nutrition programs aimed at ending hunger and promoting healthy eating.

A Harvard School of Public Health panel in 2013 suggested several reasons why obesity is on the rise. According to the Harvard Gazette, they include marketing of "junk food", increased portion sizes, greater consumption of sugary beverages, and  “changing eating habits” as factors, including the fact that “people no longer just eat at mealtimes.”

Another factor is exposure to television, which leads to “mindless eating,” said Harvard Medical School Associate Professor Michael Rich.

According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), an anti-hunger organization, government nutrition programs are not the problem.

FRAC claims that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) “is associated with better dietary quality among those low-income adults who are food insecure, as well as with “better weight-related outcomes, including lower BMI.”

However, according to SNAP guidelines,“soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible items.”

In an interview with CNSNews.com, FRAC Senior Nutrition Policy and Research Analyst Heather Hartline-Grafton acknowledged that “obesity continues to be a widespread and leading public health problem.”

However, she does not think that federal nutrition programs like SNAP are to blame.

They “are a way to address the obesity problem among low-income families,” she said. “There’s no evidence that the federal nutrition programs cause obesity.”

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