Obesity Stalls at One-Third of U.S. Adults, CDC Finds

The number of obese American adults remained unchanged in 2012, continuing at least a decade-long trend showing about one-third still affected by the condition, a U.S. report found.

About 78 million U.S. adults are considered obese. The majority -- more than 50 million -- are non-Hispanic white, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and stroke, the CDC has said. Though the increase in obesity appears to have leveled off since about 2000, the numbers are still too high, the agency said in its report. Americans spend about $147 billion a year on obesity-related health costs.

“The prevalence of obesity is still high in the U.S. but it hasn’t changed. At least it’s not going up,” Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, and lead author of the report, said in a telephone interview.

While more non-Hispanic white Americans are obese, the prevalence of obesity is highest among non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics, the report showed. About 43 percent of Hispanics and 48 percent of blacks are obese, compared with 33 percent of whites and 11 percent of Asians.

Calculating Obesity

Obesity is measured using body mass index, or BMI, a calculation of weight and height. For example, a 5-foot, 4-inch woman weighing 175 pounds (80 kilograms) has a BMI of 30. BMI of 30 or more is considered obese, while a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the research showed that the rates of obesity for men and women didn’t significantly differ, except among non-Hispanic black adults where about 57 percent of women were obese compared with 37 percent of men.

Adults ages 40 to 59 years had the highest rates of obesity, followed by those ages 20 to 39 and then adults ages 60 and older, the report said.