PerspectiveIn the Journals Plus

Obesity prevalence continues to grow among US adults

Show Citation

March 23, 2018

The prevalence of obesity and severe obesity increased from 2005 to 2016 in adults aged at least 20 years, but no significant increases were observed among children and adolescents, according to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.

Craig M. Hales, MD, MPH, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, and colleagues evaluated data from the NHANES in 2007-2008 and 2015-2016 to analyze trends in obesity prevalence among 16,875 youths and 27,449 adults from the United States to determine recent changes. Obesity was defined as BMI of least 30 kg/m2 and severe obesity as BMI of at least 40 mg/m2 in adults aged at least 20 years. BMI at or above the 95th percentile was used to define obesity, and BMI at or above 120% of the 95th percentile was used to define severe obesity in children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years.

Obesity prevalence increased from 16.8% in 2005-2006 to 18.5% in 2015-2016 in youths, but no significant linear trends were observed based on the unadjusted model. A quadratic trend was observed for children aged 2 to 5 years with prevalence decreasing from 10.1% in 2007-2008 to 8.4% in 2011-2012 and increasing to 13.9% in 2015-2016.

Obesity prevalence increased from 33.7% in 2007-2008 to 39.6% in 2015-2016 in adults overall and in adults aged 40 to 59 years, 60 years and older, and in women. No significant increases were observed for men and adults aged 20 to 39 years.

Severe obesity prevalence increased from 5.7% in 2007-2008 to 7.7% in 2015-2016 in adults overall and in men, women, adults aged 20 to 39 years and adults aged 40 to 59 years. No significant linear trend was observed for adults aged at least 60 years.

“Changes in demographics did not explain the observed trends,” the researchers wrote. “Limitations include small sample sizes in the youngest age group. Residual bias due to incomplete nonresponse adjustment is possible and may vary with changing response rates. Additional NHANES data will allow continued monitoring of trends in obesity and severe obesity prevalence among U.S. youth and adults.” – by Amber Cox

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

itj+ Infographic

itj+ Perspective

Scott Isaacs

This study compared NHANES data for obesity trends among U.S. youths and adults over the past decade. There were no significant changes in overall obesity rates for youths aged 2 to 19 years. However, obesity prevalence among children aged 2 to 5 years old increased from 10.1% in 2007 to 2008 to 13.9% in 2015 to 2016. Obesity rates among adults increased from 33.7% in 2007 to 2008 to 39.6% in 2015 to 2016. The prevalence of obesity increased in women and in adults over the age of 40 years. The prevalence of severe obesity (defined as a BMI above 40 kg/m2) increased from 5.7% in 2007 to 2008 to 7.7% in 2015 to 2016. Rates of severe obesity increased in men and women aged 20 to 59 years, but did not increase in adults over age 60 years.

Although obesity rates among all children have not changed over the past decade, younger children aged 2 to 5 years have seen a significant increase. Among adults, obesity rates have continued to climb at an alarming rate over the past decade to almost 40%. This study tells us that despite our best efforts, we have been losing ground in the battle against obesity. Obesity rates will likely continue to increase in the foreseeable future until better treatments become available.

Scott Isaacs, MD, FACP, FACE

Clinical Instructor of Medicine
Emory University School of Medicine
Spokesperson for The Obesity Society

Disclosure: Isaacs reports he is on the speaker’s bureau for Orexigen.