The American Obesity Epidemic: Are We Really That Fat? And, How Could It Have Happened?

Rebecca Utz, University of Michigan

Over the past several decades, the proportion of Americans who are considered overweight or obese has skyrocketed. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control in the year 2000, less than half (42.9%) of the American population is now considered to be a healthy weight. This increase has sparked tremendous public concern because excess body weight has been linked to a host of mortality, morbidity, and disability outcomes. Some have even referred to this trend as the "Obesity Epidemic." Others have called obesity the #1 public health concern in America. Using data from the NHANES, this project documents the trends in American body weight over the past four decades (1960-2000) and offers potential explanations for when and how this "epidemic" actually occurred. The explanations offered here rely primarily on the types of lifestyles, including exercise and dietary behaviors, that modern-day Americans have adopted.

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Presented in Session 73: Obesity and Inactivity: Trends and Consequences