As the obesity epidemic in the United States grows, a new study shows

Newly published research from exercise science researchers at BYU reveals critical and rare data detailing the severity of the obesity epidemic in the United States.

The article, published in the Obesity Diary, examined the long-term weight gain of more than 13,800 American adults – a rare data point unearthed in obesity research. They found that more than half of the American adults in the study had gained 5% or more of body weight over a 10-year period. Additionally, more than one-third of American adults gained 10% or more body weight and nearly one-fifth gained 20% or more body weight.

“The obesity epidemic in the United States isn’t slowing down,” said the study’s lead author, Larry Tucker, professor of exercise science at BYU. “Without a doubt, 10-year weight gain is a serious problem among the American adult population.”

Study participants were randomly selected through the National Health and Nutrition Survey, an annual survey that examines a nationally representative sample. NHANES is a CDC-sponsored study series that began in the early 1960s and became an ongoing program in 1999.

Using data from NHANES, the study also found that weight gain over 10 years was significantly greater in women than in men, with women gaining about twice as much weight: 12 pounds on average for men. women against 6 pounds for men. Weight gain also differed between races, with black women experiencing the highest average weight gain over the 10-year period (19.4 pounds) and Asian men the least (2. 9 pounds).

With respect to age, the greatest weight gains were seen in young and middle-aged adults; less weight is gained as age increases. According to the data, Americans gain on average the following weight:

  • 17.6 pounds between 20 and 30 years old
  • 14.3 pounds between their 30s and 40s
  • 9.5 pounds between 40 and 50 years old
  • 4.6 pounds between 50 and 60 years old

If adults gain the average weight in each decade of adult life, they will have gained more than 45 pounds, which would push many of them into the obese category. According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC, 42.4% of American adults are currently obese. This is considerably more than the 30.5% measured in 2000.

“In about 20 years, the prevalence of obesity has increased by about 40%, and severe obesity has almost doubled,” Tucker said. “By knowing who is most likely to become obese, we can help healthcare providers and public health officials focus more on those at risk.”

BYU graduate student Kayla Parker is also one of the study’s authors.


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