A shocking 40 percent of women in the US are obese.
Survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association also found that 35 percent of men are obese, with rates of obesity rising for women but not men between 2013 and 2014.
Historically, the population of overweight women and men has changed at roughly the same rate, said, Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and the primary author of the study. “This is a new observation that there’s an increase in women,” she said.
The other demographic faring particularly badly is teens, according to a second JAMA study, which finds that the prevalence of obesity in teenagers has doubled in a generation. Twenty-five years ago, 1 in 10 American teenagers met the criterion for obesity, which is a 5’4” teen weighing more than 175 pounds. Today, 1 in 5 teens weighs at least that much.
At the same time, the rate of obesity in preschoolers has been going down, landing at 9.4 percent in 2013-2014.
However, the teenage rate overwhelms any improvement among young children, said Cynthia Ogden, another researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics and the main author of the study in children.
Analysis from the study suggests that the increasing obesity in teens and women isn’t related to changes in US demographics such as race, ethnicity, or income, or changes in lifestyle habits like smoking.
Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity researcher at the University of Ottawa who was not involved in the study, doesn’t think it’s surprising that rates of obesity are continuing to rise among women. “Men have it easier just in general. Men burn more calories, we’re taller and more muscular. It gives you a buffer,” he said. “I would expect to see men’s weight going up more slowly or leveling off sooner than I would women’s.”
The data was part of a nationally representative survey called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which has been tracking the obesity epidemic since the 1960s.
A new federal plan to improve food labels, highlighting calories and added sugars, might help combat rising obesity, combined with more regulations of soda and junk food, Freedhoff said, though he thinks these tactics might not be aggressive enough.