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US obesity rates

Obesity rates for US adults continues to climb

the researchers found that age-standardised prevalence of obesity among adults increased from 33.7% in 2007-2008 to 39.6% in 2015-2016 (p=0.001)

Obesity rates have continued to climb significantly among American adults, but the same is not the case for children, according to a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that obesity among adults increased to about 40 percent in 2015-2016, up from 34 percent in 2007-2008. That means two of every five adults now struggle with obesity. Meanwhile, about 18.5 percent of kids were obese in 2015-2016, compared with 17 percent in 2007-2008.

"It's a different story for adults than it is for youth," said report author, Dr Craig Hales, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC. "In adults, unfortunately, we see a continuing increasing trend. But in youth, we see over the last 10 years, there has been this flattening out of the obesity and severe obesity prevalence rate."

The paper, ‘Trends in Obesity and Severe Obesity Prevalence in US Youth and Adults by Sex and Age, 2007-2008 to 2015-2016’, published in JAMA, used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) survey. The research gathered data on 16,875 young people and 27, 449 adults. They reported that among youth, obesity prevalence was 16.8% in 2007-2008 and 18.5% in 2015-2016. Based on the unadjusted model, there were no significant linear trends in the prevalence of obesity or severe obesity overall, by sex or age group.

Obesity prevalence among children aged 2 to 5 years showed a quadratic trend (p=0.04), decreasing from 10.1% in 2007-2008 to 8.4% in 2011-2012 and then increasing to 13.9% in 2015-2016. Adjusted overall linear and quadratic trends for obesity and severe obesity among youth aged 2 to 19 years remained non-significant.

"There's no doubt about it, overall obesity remains an epidemic in the US. The numbers are tremendous," said Dr Robert Courgi, an endocrinologist with Northwell Health's Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, NY. "But I thought I saw a silver lining, that it plateaued in children. Maybe all these community efforts that we've put forth are making a difference."

However, the researchers found that age-standardised prevalence of obesity among adults increased from 33.7% in 2007-2008 to 39.6% in 2015-2016 (p=0.001). Prevalence increased among women, and in adults aged 40 to 59 years and 60 years or older. The observed increases in men and adults aged 20 to 39 years did not reach statistical significance and there were no significant quadratic trends. The adjusted model also showed a significant overall linear trend for obesity among adults (p<0.001).

Age-standardised prevalence of severe obesity in adults increased from 5.7% (95% CI, 4.9%-6.7%) in 2007-2008 to 7.7% in 2015-2016 (p=0.001). Prevalence increased in men, women, adults aged 20 to 39 years and 40 to 59 years. There was no significant linear trend among adults 60 years and older. There were no significant quadratic trends and the adjusted model also showed a significant overall linear trend for severe obesity (p<0.001).

Courgi noted that these results do show that obesity can be addressed, given that it does not appear to have been passed on to children. Efforts such as providing healthier food in schools, promoting physical activity among children, and teaching kids about proper diet and exercise appear to be helping stem obesity in younger Americans.

The next step will be to extend that approach to adults on a medical basis, by treating it as a diagnosable disease, he said.

"We still need to change the culture's views on obesity," he added. "Obesity is a disease. If you had an infection, you would take antibiotics. It needs to be recognised as a diagnosis with a solid treatment plan."

"We need to take a multidisciplinary approach to obesity prevention and really focus on increasing awareness of obesity and its associated complications, and start screening for obesity and complications at a young age," said Dr Reshmi Srinath, director of the Weight and Metabolism Management Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

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