After years of data collection by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a report from the journal JAMA Internal Medicine has shown that the number of obese Americans has surpassed the number of those who are simply overweight.
Using the preferred method of the Body Mass Index, or BMI, researchers found some interesting stats on this issue. The “normal” range for BMI is 18.5 and 24.9. Having a BMI between 25 and 29.9 puts you in the overweight category. A BMI a 30 or more is considered to be obese.
The data, compiled between 2007 and 2012, reveals that while obesity is up across the board, not all demographics are equal. Among women in the US, 37% are obese. On the other hand, 35% of men are considered obese. But when combining the stats for obese and overweight Americans, two thirds of women and three out of four men are above a normal weight.
Among African Americans the numbers are even more troubling. 39% of men in that category and 57% of women are obese. Furthermore, 7% of black men and 17% of black women are considered “extremely obese” with a BMI over 40.
Those who identified as Mexican American had an average obesity rate of about 41% among men and women. Whites in the US came in at about 35%. No data was collected by the NHANES from Asian Americans on this topic.
In local news, California is fairing better than a majority of states. According to a 2014 study called The State of Obesity, the rate of obesity in the Golden State was about 24% among adults in 2013. Though that’s a slight increase from 2004, and more than twice the rate from 1990, it’s still better than the next 45 states. Mississippi and West Virginia tied for number one with obesity rates of about 35%. The lowest obesity rates can be found in Colorado, DC, and Hawaii.
It’s tempting to call that good news for California, but that still means that almost a quarter of its residents are obese, and looking at Sacramento, the stats only get worse. A UCLA survey in 2013 revealed that 70% of baby boomers in the region are obese. Almost a third of children in Sacramento County have an “unhealthy weight.”
Obesity is not necessarily the problem, but it does directly contribute to significant health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. And while the signs of America’s expanding waistline are abundant, so are the ideas on how to shrink it.
While conventional wisdom reduces the problem to diet and exercise, more and more medical professionals, politicians, and concerned Americans are exploring other causes. A statewide conversation in California has led to increasing support of a warning label on sugary drinks that are linked to obesity. Others still are focusing on the poverty and so-called “food deserts” that leave many without healthy options, not to mention lack of access to medical facilities in the areas that need it most.
Others in Sacramento are trying to close the gaps of access to healthcare and healthy food, particularly among poorer areas. Groups like Sacramento Building Healthy Communities, Alchemist CDC, and many others with the help of the California Endowment are working to do just that.
Featured image from Flickr.