NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Obesity Made Big News This Year

December 24, 2003

An epidemic of obesity threatens the country's health, says USA Today in a roundup of the leading health stories of 2003. The federal government is planning a variety of initiatives to do something about it -- about us.

[The article doesn't point out that the increase in unhealthy weight is partly due to recent revisions in weight guidelines. But there is a definite trend toward greater weight (and height) among Americans.]

The facts are:

  • Almost 65 percent of adults, or more than 120 million, are either overweight or obese, and an estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of children are overweight or at risk of becoming so.
  • People who weigh 30 or more pounds too much could lose about seven years from their lives; even carrying a few extra pounds can shorten a person's life span.
  • Americans' extra weight costs the nation as much as $93 billion in annual medical bills, comparable to the annual medical bill for smoking, and not including indirect costs, such as time lost from work.

Among the actions federal officials are taking is a revision of the Food Guide Pyramid by the Department of Agriculture, which critics say doesn't reflect the latest science.

Source: Nanci Hellmich, "Coming to Grips with Obesity," USA Today, December 24, 2003.


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