More U.S. adults obese than ever before

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 The news isn’t good and it looks like the problem of obesity will be with us for quite some time.  There are more American adults who are obese than ever before and unless there are some drastic measures taken to slow down and hopefully reverse the trend, our nation will face major future health implications from this.

The U.S. is not alone in experiencing this spiraling upward trend of weight gain as the global picture regarding excess weight has also seen a seismic shift.  Back in 2016, for the first time in human history, there were more individuals who were found to be obese than were underweight.

Research news on obesity rates not good

The National Center for Health Statistics released new research showing that for the first time ever in the history of the United States almost 40% of all adults are obese.  The news for our youth wasn’t much better as 19% of them also fall in the category of being obese.  Worldwide, the number of obese children and adolescents has jumped tenfold in the past 40 years with the rise accelerating in low- and middle-income countries, especially Asia.

Data for this study was collected from Americans ages 2 to 19 and 20 and older.  It was obtained through mobile physical examination centers across the country and then measured using body mass index (BMI).  A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered to be overweight while a BMI of 30 and higher is obese.

Government efforts to gain control over rising obesity rates not working

This staggering rise in obesity among adults has been steadily climbing since 1999.  Since that time, there has been a 30% increase in adult obesity along with a 33% increase in obesity among youth from 1999-2000 data to 2015-16. 

Many efforts by the government to take a bigger role in combating obesity have been implemented since 1999.  But despite these noble and repeated efforts to rein in appetites and increase physical activity, it has have been a daunting challenge.  From the Let’s Move campaign to healthier food in schools to making healthy foods in communities more available and affordable to taxing sugary beverages, so far the tactics have not proven to be that effective.

One of the goals of the 2010 government initiative called Healthy People 2020 is to improve the health of Americans by reducing obesity.  This goal aims to lower obesity rates to 14.5% among youth and 30.5% among adults by 2020.  With roughly only two more years to go, it doesn’t look promising this goal will be met.

Looking at a breakdown among ethnic groups, Hispanic adults have an obesity rate of 47% and non-Hispanic black adults a rate of 46.8% in 2015-2016.  Non-Hispanic whites fared better at 37.9% but Asian adults had the lowest rate of only 12.7%. 

When looking at the breakdown among youth ethnic groups, Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks had higher rates of obesity at 25.8% and 22% respectively, compared with 14% of non-Hispanic whites and 11% of Asians.

Is there hope for reversing this trend?

Time will tell if this current trajectory that we as a nation are on, if whether obesity rates will keep gaining in numbers.  It is obvious our nation needs to do more to help families and especially those with children to break this perpetual incline in our obesity rates.  Not doing so will only put a good portion of our population at a much higher risk of developing serious medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, arthritis, gallbladder issues and certain forms of cancer. 

Is there hope for reversing this trend?  Yes - there is always hope but only with action.  One necessary action needed is to focus on making families and the American public healthier in general starting with the obvious – making better food choices. 

It is surprising how many people really do not understand or knows how to make good food choices for supporting their health as a human - many people know how to feed their pets far better than then they do themselves.  

Understanding human health starts with educating all of us on understanding the nutrients our bodies require.  This could mean starting from kindergarten through college, requiring yearly classes in human nutrition and teaching youth how to cook healthy foods.

It could also mean:

·      Utilizing the vast knowledge and skills of registered dietitians who are experts on human nutrition

·      Getting insurance companies to prioritize preventative and medical nutrition therapy by covering the cost of all services registered dietitians offer

·      Helping support the structure of families to eat healthy meals together and to plan family activities emphasizing physical activity

·      Addressing the problem of how stress is a big factor in emotional eating which can lead to excessive weight gain

·      Recognizing that obesity disproportionately impacts individuals from certain ethnic minority groups and working more with this population in addressing their weight and health

·      Provide outreach to ethnic minority populations in a culturally sensitive approach to obesity treatment such as information on bariatric surgery.

·      To continue efforts of making the infrastructure of our cities and towns conducive for providing opportunities for recreational physical activity

·      Addressing and understanding the process of behavior change.  To see real and lasting progress, people must want to make and change lifestyle behaviors (diet, exercise, emotional/stress) which may sound simple, but behavior change often takes substantial effort. 

There are many other steps involved in getting our nation healthier and on the right path.  This will take time but the only way to go forward in reducing obesity, is to keep on trying and to not give up.  The future health of our nation depends on it as we can’t let this weigh us down.