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The adult obesity rate in the US continues to rise, but the youth rate has leveled off, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The rate of obesity in youth has hovered around 17 percent for about a decade, since 2003. Some public health experts found that encouraging, while others were worried that years of effort to push less sugar and more exercise — including through federal laws mandating healthier school lunches — haven’t had much impact.


“It’s a little disappointing,” said Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

Over the same time period, since 2003, the obesity rate for adults has jumped from about 30 percent to about 38 percent.

The new data on adults was particularly disheartening to some researchers because as recently as last year, they had thought the rate was starting to dip.


“We thought maybe what we’re doing in adults is reaching enough people,” Rimm said. “It clearly is not.”

Dr. William Dietz, a public health expert at George Washington University, said he took heart from the youth statistics but worried about the trend in adults.

“[That] means we’re going to see the increased cost associated with obesity,” he said.

The medical cost of obesity in 2005 was estimated at $190 billion, according to a 2012 article in the Journal of Health Economics.