Study Predicts More Than Half of the US Will Be Obese in 10 Years
Mon, April 19, 2021

Study Predicts More Than Half of the US Will Be Obese in 10 Years

Obesity has become an adverse health issue in the US, contributing to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer / Photo by: Dmitrii Shironosov via 123RF

 

Obesity has become an adverse health issue in the US, contributing to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. If the upward trend of the prevalence of this condition continues, about half of the American population will be obese in 10 years, a new study predicts.

Published in The Lancet, the study warns that failure to adopt healthier lifestyles and eating habits will lead one in four Americans to be "severely obese" by 2030. The prediction comes from an analysis of self-reported body mass index (BMI) data from over six million adults in the US collected in the last 26 years.


Alarming Predictions

The analysis is one of the first to look into obesity at the state level. Results show that 29 states, especially those in the South and Midwest, will see the most adverse effects given that over 50% of residents there are already considered obese.

No state is safe from the alarming predictions, according to CNN, as at least 35% of the population in all 50 states are projected to be obese. Obesity occurs when a person's BMI is over 35.

Zachary Ward, the study's lead author, said the most concerning issue here is the rise in severe obesity.

"Nationally, severe obesity—typically over 100 pounds of excess weight—will become the most common BMI category," explained Ward, who is also an analyst at Harvard Chan School's Center for Health Decision Science.

The study found that specific subpopulations will be most at risk for severe obesity. This includes women (27.6%), non-Hispanic black adults (31.7%), and low-income adults whose annual income is less than $50,000 (31.7%).

"Prevalence will be higher than 25% in 25 states. And we find that for very low-income adults—adults with less than $20,000 annual household income—severe obesity will be the most common BMI category in 44 states," the lead author added.

CNN reports that as of today, only 18% of Americans are considered severely obese. However, if the current trend continues, severe obesity will "become as prevalent as overall obesity was in the 1990s," the study said.

The Rapid Rise in Obesity

Obesity rates have been rising over the past few decades. No state had an obesity rate higher than 35% in 2000. Ten years later and 27 states were over that mark, Time reports.

By this year, the country recorded an obesity rate of over 35% except for two states (Colorado and Hawaii). Ten states had an obesity rate higher than 45%, with Mississippi being named the state with the highest rate (nearly 50%).

If current trends in overweight and obesity continue, the BMI analysis predicts that one in two US adults will be considered obese while one in four will be severely obese by 2030. There will also be additional cases of various diseases such as diabetes (7.8 million), coronary h

Obesity rates have been rising over the past few decades. No state had an obesity rate higher than 35% in 2000. Ten years later and 27 states were over that mark / Photo by: belchonock via 123RF

eart disease and stroke (6.8 million), and cancer (539,000).

 

 

Healthcare costs will also see a considerable increase, possibly reaching an annual total cost of $66 billion in treating obesity-related diseases.

One of the reasons why obesity surged is the surge of sugar-sweetened beverages and ultra-processed foods—both of which contribute to weight gain but provide little nutrition. The fall in the price of unhealthy fast food choices is also seen as a contributing factor to the rapid rise in obesity.

Time says the results of the analysis emphasize the urgent need to develop more ways to address diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors attributed to weight gain—including nutrition education, increased access to safe places to walk or exercise, and support for avoiding sedentary behaviors.

A Global Issue

With the rise of obesity in the US, researchers of the BMI study predict a loss of productivity of about 1.7 to 3 million productive person-years that may cost the economy $390 to $580 million.

America isn't the only country that will feel the hard-hitting effects of obesity. The UK is also projected to see an increased prevalence of obesity in the next 20 years.

Citing the Health Survey for England, medical news website Healio reports that a total of 26 million people will be obese in 2030 from the 15 million people today. It adds that the surge will lead to an additional 668,000 cases of diabetes, 461,000 of CHD, and 13,000 of cancer; while health care costs will also expand to £2 billion per year.

"As we look beyond these two countries and examine the similarities and differences across other populations, the availability of high-quality national surveillance data becomes increasingly crucial," the researchers said.

"Nevertheless, we hope that our dire predictions will serve to mobilize efforts to reduce obesity so that our predictions do not become reality."

With an environment that encourages obesity, so much more is needed than relying on individual behavior change.

A lot of work needs to be done to prevent a reality where the majority of the population is suffering from a preventable condition—including interventions from the federal, state, and local levels as well as regulations to have a major impact.

With the rise of obesity in the US, researchers of the BMI study predict a loss of productivity of about 1.7 to 3 million productive person-years that may cost the economy $390 to $580 million / Photo by: Cathy Yeulet via 123RF