The percentage of American adults 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight has skyrocketed over the past decade, a new study finds.
In 2010, about 6.6 percent of Americans were “severely obese,” up from 3.9 percent in 2000, says analysis from the RAND Corp., a nonprofit research group. That’s a 70 percent growth, a much faster growth than for those with moderate obesity.
The findings mean that more than 15 million adult Americans are morbidly obese with a body mass index of 40 or more. But there is some good news: Beginning in 2005, the near-exponential growth of the severely obese group began to flatten out, the study shows.
“The proportion of people at the high end of the weight scale continues to increase faster than any other group of obese people, despite increased public attention on the risks of obesity,” says lead report author Roland Sturm, a senior economist at RAND. “But for the first time in the past 20 years there is evidence the trend is slowing.”
The prevalence of severe obesity was about 50 percent higher among women than among men, and about twice as high among blacks when compared to Hispanics or whites. For all levels of obesity, the increases over time were faster among age groups younger than 40.
People with a BMI of 25 to 29 are considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or more classifies a person as being obese. For a 5-foot-10 inch male, a BMI of 30 translates into being 35 pounds too heavy.
The findings were published online by the International Journal of Obesity. The new study is based on a phone survey of about 3 million people over a decade from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.