Americans, in almost every demographic group, are no longer getting fatter and fatter. They're just fat, and obesity seems to have reached a plateau at very high rates.
The American population as a whole is no longer getting fatter and fatter. In fact, Americans are no longer the fattest people in the world. That dubious honor now goes to the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru, where 71 percent of the population is obese, and the Cook Islands, also located in the South Pacific, where 63 percent of the population is obese. In fact, the United States ranks eighteenth in obesity rates worldwide, with 33 percent of adults identified as obese, well behind Kuwait (42 percent) and slightly behind Barbados, the Bahamas, Qatar and Egypt (at 34 percent each). Although twice as many American adults and three times as many American children are obese compared to 30 years ago, obesity rates in the US have remained stable since about 2010.
Of course, although there are 17 nations where a greater percentage of the population is obese than in the United States, there are 174 nations where the percentage of obese adults is lower. Moreover, experts don't believe that the stabilizing of obesity rates in the USA is due to better diets and more exercise. Dr David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Children’s Hospital in Boston says that the plateau might just suggest that “we’ve reached a biological limit” to how obese people could get. When people eat more, he said, at first they gain weight; then a growing share of the calories go “into maintaining and moving around that excess tissue,” he continued, so that “a population doesn’t keep getting heavier and heavier indefinitely.”
This is hardly a flattering portrait of American lifestyle and eating habits, but is it fair and accurate?
What Is The Real Status Of The Obesity Epidemic In The USA?
The United States is actually a mixture of success and horror stories regarding obesity. Obesity rates among toddlers aged two to five are actually down since 2003, from 13.9 percent to 8.4 percent. Obesity rates in most groups of Americans have been unchanged, not going up, and not going down, since 2003.
Only one group of Americans has a continuing increase in rates of obesity, women over the age of 60. Among white women of all ages, nearly 63 percent are overweight or obese. For Hispanic women of all ages in the United States, this rate goes up to 72 percent. For African-American women, the figure is 83 percent. Different groups in the USA are getting different results in the war against weight.
Why Do Different Groups Fare Differently In The Battle Against Obesity?
Experts opine that improvements in obesity among 2 to 5 year-olds reflect increasing popularity of breastfeeding, and social acceptance of the practice, bans on sugar-sweetened drinks in day care and preschools, national programs promoting exercise, and state-level programs that ensure that mothers, infants, and small children get more vegetables and fruit.
On the other hand, continually rising rates of overweight and obesity may reflect basic genetic differences particular to Hispanic and African-American women. This would not explain, however, why rates of overweight and obesity are not going up among white, Hispanic, and African-American men over 60.