The ranks of obese Americans are expected to swell even further in the coming years, rising from 36% of the adult population today to 42% by 2030, experts said Monday.
Kicking off a government-led conference on the public health ramifications of all those expanding waistlines, the authors of a new report estimated that the cost of treating those additional obese people for diabetes, heart disease and other medical conditions would add up to nearly $550 billion over the next two decades.
The sobering projections also contained some good news, the researchers said: Obesity's growth has slowed from the record pace of most of the last 30 years. If those trends were to continue, 51% of American adults would qualify as obese in 2030.
Study leader Eric Finkelstein, a health economist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., said it was unclear whether growth had slowed thanks to public policy initiatives aimed at preventing childhood obesity, greater societal awareness of obesity's health risks, or because Americans have hit the maximum level of fatness a population can sustain.
Whatever the reasons, further small successes in anti-obesity efforts — more effective weight-loss drugs, public health campaigns to encourage exercise and more-healthful eating, or workplace health promotion policies — could flatten the curve even more, Finkelstein said at the second annual Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Even small improvements in obesity prevalence ... could result in substantial savings," he and his colleagues concluded in their report, which was published online Monday by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The forecast took into account a host of factors thought to influence Americans' eating and exercise habits, including the cost of groceries, the prevalence of restaurants, the unemployment rate, Internet access and the price of gas.
Most important was the aging of the population, which tends to nudge many overweight adults into the obese category — and to push many of those who are already obese into "severely obese" territory.
Read more at the LATimes...