Larger Than We’ve Ever Been: New Data on the Nation’s Weight Problem

In blunt terms: we’re larger than we’ve ever been.  That’s the essential conclusion of new research published online yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine by CNiC’s Dr. Graham Colditz and Dr. Lin Yang.  In the analysis, which looked at a nationally representative sample of Americans from 2007 – 2012, the authors found that 75 percent of men, and 67 percent of women age 25 and older were either overweight or obese.  This is a significant increase from rates seen 20 years ago, when 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women were either overweight of obese.

With overweight and obesity linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, lower quality of life, and premature death, these new numbers are likely to translate to huge medical and financial burdens both for the nation, and for individuals and families.  They also point to the need to make large-scale meaningful efforts in combatting our nation’s weight problem.

While weight is in many ways an intensely individual issue, it’s difficult to overestimate the impact that our social and physical surroundings have on the choices we make.  It’s harder to be physically active, for example, when there are no nearby sidewalks, bike paths, or affordable gyms.  It’s harder to make healthy food choices when our friends only like fast-food, and there are no good grocery stores in our neighborhoods.

To truly combat the weight issue, therefore, we need to make changes at all levels of society – from the individual on up to the federal government – changes that foster healthy choices, healthy attitudes, and sustainable approaches to weight, physical activity, and healthy eating.

As Yang and Colditz conclude: “Population-based strategies helping to reduce modifiable risk factors such as physical environmental interventions, enhancing primary care efforts to prevent and treat obesity, and altering societal norms of behavior are required.”

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