According to the CDC, about 15% of children and adolescents were overweight in 2000—triple what the proportion was in 1980.
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index ( BMI ) greater than or equal to 30. Overweight is defined as having a BMI of 25-29.9. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. It is calculated by dividing body weight in kilograms by height in meters squared.
Health Risks Associated with Obesity In December 2001, the U.S. Surgeon General warned that obesity could soon kill more Americans than tobacco smoke. People who are obese are more likely to develop certain health conditions, including (but not limited to):
High blood pressure High blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides Heart disease Stroke Angina Type 2 diabetes Certain cancers: Uterine Gallbladder Cervical Ovarian Breast Colon Rectal Prostate Sleep apnea Osteoarthritis Gout Gallbladder disease Urinary stress incontinence Body pain Gynecologic complications Problems with labor and delivery
What’s Behind the Epidemic? Why such large and extensive increases in obesity? Data collected from around the world show that different environmental and cultural conditions contribute to obesity in urban and rural populations.
Obesity More Prevalent in Certain Groups
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity tends to be more common in certain groups of people:
Women (33% vs 28% of men) Non-Hispanic black women (50%) Mexican-American women (40%) Non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American adolescents ages 12-19 (24%) Mexican-American children ages 6-11 (24%) Non-Hispanic black children ages 6-11 (20%) People with lower levels of education
Cultural and Environmental Factors
Experts believe that rising rates of obesity among children and adults may be attributed to a combination of the following:
Increasingly sedentary activities such as: Watching TV Using a computer Driving long distances (for example, commuting) Working long hours at sedentary jobs Conveniences, such as drive-thru banking, which reduce physical activity Lack of safe playgrounds Increased consumption of soft drinks Environmental factors that encourage overeating, such as: Larger portion sizes in restaurants Increased sizes of individual food items (such as soft drinks, candy bars, bagels) Increased prevalence of vending machines Greater number of food choices Pervasive marketing of high calorie foods Marketing strategies that encourage ordering larger serving sizes Emotional overeating, triggered by increased stress Childhood malnutrition and stunted growth Repeated dieting Greater acceptance of obesity in certain cultural groups
Girth Control in a Complex World Although a number of complex cultural and environmental factors contribute to the obesity epidemic, in the majority of cases, the equation is basic: too many calories consumed and too few calories expended (too little activity) leads to obesity. In some cases, obesity is associated with underlying health conditions or medications and requires medical treatment. However, most people can achieve and maintain a healthful body weight by eating a more healthful diet and exercising regularly to burn off the calories they consume.
The following resources can provide you with more information: