U.S obesity rates unchanged
January 17th, 2012
02:04 PM ET

U.S obesity rates unchanged

The prevalence of obesity in the United States seems to have plateaued, according to data released Tuesday.  The numbers show 35.7% of U.S. adults and almost 17% of U.S. children and teens are obese.

"There's been no change in the prevalence of obesity in recent years in children or adults," says Cynthia L Ogden, Ph.D, an epidemiologist with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics and the leading author of the report.  "But I think looking over the last decade, it's interesting to see how the prevalence of obesity in men has caught up with the prevalence of obesity in women."

Ogden and her team compiled the data from 2009-2010 using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey measured the height and weight of almost 6,000 men and women and calculated their Body Mass Index (commonly known as BMI) to determine if they were obese.

They found that from 2009-2010, 35.5% of American men and 35.8% of American women were obese, with African-American and Mexican-American men and women having higher rates of obesity than white Americans. Obesity was more common among teens than preschool aged children and among boys than girls.

Take a look at our interactive map to find the obesity rates for your area

"This is a good news story but this is not the end of the story," says Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, Dean and Executive Vice President of Morehouse School of Medicine.

"We cannot feel good... until we see a decrease in the prevalence of obesity," says Dr. Montgomery Rice.

In Rice's opinion, efforts over the last several years to educate populations about the importance of daily exercise, to encourage the incorporation of  healthy foods into school cafeterias, and to combat food insecurity throughout the country is having an impact on the number of Americans who are obese.  But she cautions that more needs to be done and that doctors should focus on giving patients realistic weight loss goals when counseling patients about obesity.

"It's a difficult conversation to have with an individual, to say 'okay, you are obese.'" People kind of know what 'obese' is but not really."

For example, as an OB-GYN, Montgomery Rice counsels her patients on the dangers of belly fat and the reproductive issues that could be affected or made worse by obesity. She also encourages patients to focus on losing only 10% of their excess weight at a time.

"What I hope doesn't come out of this study is that we start to think we've made some significant improvement and we stop the efforts that have been put forth," says Rice.

soundoff (1,026 Responses)
  1. MikeGCNY

    There is a major flaw in this study. One that I harp on more than any other thing, health or otherwise. BMI is a broken scatter plot, nothing more, and it has replaced the concerns on total body fat percentages. I am 6'5", and weigh in about 210 lbs. My BMI is 24.9. If I weighed 211 lbs, I would be overwieght. Now, if I were not as fit as I am, and had 15% body fat, I would be unhealthy. Carrying over 30 pounds of fat is no good for men unless they weigh over 300lbs. My body fat is just under 10%. Which means I carry roughly 20lbs of fat. The rest of me, all 190lbs, is bone, sinew, Muscle, blood, skin... etc. If my BMI score tells me I am boderline overweight, while my body fat percentage puts me a the low end of health (according to the WHO), than why is the BMI still used? According to my current build, I could weigh up to 234 lbs without being overweight. In another words, I could carry an extra 24 lbs of fat alone and still be considered a healthy weight!

    BMI was created to find a quick method to determine if someone should be concerned about their body weight or not. Well, I think I have shown that quick and easy is not the right way. The concern should have always been on body fat. Period.

    January 18, 2012 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MikeGCNY

      My percentage of what would be unhealth was a typo, 19% body fat is the upper limit of healthy, not 15.

      January 18, 2012 at 12:55 | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense

      An what makes you an expert? Exactly nothing so your comment is worth nothing. Are you the surgeons general? No are you a member of a state or federal medical board nope are you even a doctor nope. Case proved.

      January 18, 2012 at 13:04 | Report abuse |
    • Maelius

      Yes, BMI is flawed when it comes to fitness levels (i.e. muscle weight). However, for the general populace that doesn't work hard at staying fit, it is a good tool.

      January 18, 2012 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
    • Turtleman

      MikeGCNY is 100% correct, BMI stands for Bulls*** Mass Index! The 'experts' are busy trying to shoehorn everyone into molds that will be used to determine future life insurance, health care, one other costs related to unhealthy habits. No chart can be used to define ones health. We are all individuals, not mass produced automatons. I'm 6'5", 225lbs and am always getting calls from my health care co requesting me to see a RN life coach due to obesity. When I inform them I have a 46" chest, 29" waist, and a 35" hip measurement (9% body fat) they just repeat that I have an obesity issue that needs addressing because of the BMI charts. I'm sure this is just to increase insurance cost to my employer, and the reason for the increased costs is my violation of government generated 'standards'. So if people take the advice of the 'professionals', start working out and eating right, they will wind right back on the obesity list for being too healthy; you can't win in our system.

      January 18, 2012 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
    • mr

      And your point is what? Americans are fat. Plain and simple. Obese. You can't talk your way around that.

      January 19, 2012 at 00:05 | Report abuse |
    • Turtleman

      My point is you can't judge Americans based on some silly useless chart designed to facilitate profitability of Corporate America. I think that was intuitively obvious by my previous statement.

      January 19, 2012 at 01:11 | Report abuse |
    • jack.thomas.444

      Although Americans are generally though of as fat, it is totally unfair for health insurance companies to use the BMI to jack up prices. The body mass index is only one factor, and in some cases is a very inaccurate representation of a persons total health. Other factors like body fat percentage and cardiovascular health should be looked at to determine if someone is truly obese.

      January 19, 2012 at 19:52 | Report abuse |
    • Mary Katherine Adkins

      The reason it's unchanged because americans have to work to lower obesity rates and we really just like to make excuses

      February 10, 2012 at 22:22 | Report abuse |
  2. Common Sense

    Maybe chairman oba mao & his wife the point woman for the "fight on obesity" should stop all their endless vacationing and actually do something in trying to get the word out since their health & obesity especially in kids is so important to them or so they say but not enough to interrupt vacations & golfing obviously. Mrs. Obama really fights hard to stop it we all see it all around her struggle to get the world out... oh wait no she's on another vacation again. 368 days left til their both out. Let them travel & golf on their own time & money instead of the backs of American taxpayers.

    January 18, 2012 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mikey

      This much hatred can not be good for your health.

      January 18, 2012 at 13:35 | Report abuse |
    • Capitan

      112 Words, zero commas. Punctuation isn't that difficult, Thomas Paine...

      January 18, 2012 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
    • E

      If you hate them so much wouldn't you want them to take more vacations? And were you this mad about vacations when Bush was taking three times more days off?

      January 18, 2012 at 20:46 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      And Obama's predecessor took countless vacations while destroying the economy. What's your point? Maybe when you are POTUS and you have the most stressful job in the world you can decide if he has taken too many vacations.

      January 19, 2012 at 08:30 | Report abuse |
    • LadyDyeAgnostic

      My understanding is that when Mrs. Obama tried to introduce healtier alternatives and food education to your precious children in the schools,people like you came out of your trailer parks and complained "we don't want no gov-ment tellin' us what to feed our (insanely fat) kids!" So make up your mind. I'll wait while you finish your deep-fried...whatever.

      January 19, 2012 at 12:12 | Report abuse |
  3. iceload9

    It still funny, a country that subsidizes sugar and then complains about it's fat people. If anyone cared we would subsidize vegetables and let sugar cost what the market would bear. Next we will be paying health insurance premiums on BMI. Won't matter though since only 1% will be able to afford health insurance.

    January 18, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mikey

      Actually without the sugar "subsidies", food containing sugar would be cheaper.

      January 18, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse |
    • Puffbird

      And let's stop subsiding corn while were at it. I comment Michelle Obama for bringing this problem to the forefront. We're all paying for it in higher medical costs.

      January 18, 2012 at 15:54 | Report abuse |
  4. matt

    a man 5'10" weighing 175 cannot be considered obese yet this is the information that Cohen presented during the CNN segment. once again, she presents inaccurate information and does little to provide useful information to the viewers

    January 18, 2012 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. JT

    yeah but 5'10" and 175 lbs is right at the border for being overweight, so maybe they just made a mistake and said obese when they should have said overweight

    January 18, 2012 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Deborah

    It is not too complicated. Make fitness equipment and healthier foods more affordable and accessible to the "less fortunate." Healthy foods are more expensive, this needs to stop!

    January 18, 2012 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. hamsta

    newsflash-most fat people dont eat a steady diet of twinkies and junkfood.could it possibly have to do with steroids and growth hormones that our foods are "fortified" with?

    January 18, 2012 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. sharts

    Living long is overrated.

    January 18, 2012 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. jeremy

    but if you're on a bunch of psyc meds, then it's kinda hard to lose weight. i am crazy without pills, so yeah i weigh 350ish.

    January 18, 2012 at 23:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Crabby01

    Get Michelle Obama on it (Like she could not stand to lose a few pounds) She will know exactly how to fix it.

    January 19, 2012 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Calen Ravenwood

    We should kill off all McDonald's and Burger Kings, and promote vegetables more often on Tv instead of showing all fast food commercials. French Fries are Evil.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.