According to a new report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, half of the country’s adults will be obese within two decades unless in case they don’t reduce calorie consumption and increase physical activity.
With current obesity rates holding steady around 35 percent the 9-plus percent gain in next 18 years would be a significant increase; however, not as large of an increase as the nation has seen in the past two decades.
“The initial reaction is to say, ‘Oh it couldn’t be that bad’,” Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, told reporters. “But we have maps from 1991 and you see almost all the states below 10 percent.”
The “F as in Fat” report shows the current situation of the U.S. obesity epidemic, in which 35.7 percent of adults and 16.9 percent of children age 2 to 19 are obese, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported earlier this year.
As Reuters writes, the report builds on state-by-state data from the CDC to project obesity rates. The increase of obesity in U.S. will result in increase of numerous diseases, from type 2 diabetes to endometrial cancer, meaning more sick people and higher medical costs in the future.
“With 6 million new cases of diabetes, 5 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of cancer in the next 20 years, we are on a tragic course that will have a horrible impact on the quality of life of millions of Americans and could overwhelm an already over burdened health care system,” Levi said.
However, as health policy experts suggest, with all projections, from climate models to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” human actions can prevent the worst of the scenarios.
“This is a tale of two futures,” said Levi. “We’re at a turning point where if we don’t do something now to mitigate these trends, the cost in human health and healthcare spending will be enormous.”
Obesity rates among U.S. adults have more than doubled from the 15 percent of 1980. In that same time, they have more than tripled among children.
Scientists claim that the percentage of children and adults suffering from obesity was essentially unchanged between 2008 and 2010.
Thus, some experts doubt whether the “F as in Fat” model overstates future obesity by assuming past trends continue in a straight line.
“This is a strong assumption,” said economist Justin Trogdon of RTI International in North Carolina. “Recent evidence from other surveys suggest obesity rates may be leveling off.”
Mathematician Martin Brown of Britain’s National Heart Forum, a nonprofit group, who led development of the model, said it takes a longer view by design.
“You have to take trends over a number of years,” he said. “In the age groups that matter, there just isn’t much evidence of a leveling off in obesity rates.”