There’s Little to Celebrate in New CDC Report on Obesity

Both child and adult rates appear to be plateauing, and declines were only seen in one demographic group.
(Photo: Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
Nov 13, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

Despite the trendiness of healthy foods and government policies focused on increasing the nutritional value of public school lunches, the United States has not got any less heavy in the last 15 years. According to a report published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the adult obesity rate was more than 36 percent in 2014—a more than six-point increase for adults since 1999—and 17 percent for children.

That amounts to 78 million obese adults—the same number of people as there are in the baby boomer generation—and 13 million obese children.

The good news from the new study, such as it is, is that the rate for children between the ages of two and 19 did not change over the same period of time, and that the difference in the adult rate between 2011 and 2014 was negligible.

“After decades of rising childhood obesity rates, it is more than encouraging to see in the CDC report that childhood obesity rates are no longer rising,” Debra Eschmeyer, executive director of Michele Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, told Politico. “In fact, we’re seeing declines in obesity rates among two- to five-year-olds.”

The obesity rate, which the CDC determines using self-reported body mass index data gathered through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, was higher for white, Latino, and black Americans, adults and children alike, than for Asian populations. In terms of gender, more women are obese than men—38 percent for all age groups, compared with 34 percent. As Cynthia Ogden, the report’s author, told NPR, the gender gap is a new development. “This hasn’t been the case for some years,” she said of the difference in rates between women and men.

The annual medical costs of obesity were estimated to be $147 billion in 2008, according to the journal Health Affairs. For an individual, obesity can lead to lost productivity and other work-related financial loses that, combined with health care costs, add up to an estimated $92,235 per person over a lifetime, according to the World Food Center of the University of California, Davis, and the Center for Social Dynamics and Policy.