News Release

Latest report shows prevalence of overweight among children and obesity among adults not decreasing

Peer-Reviewed Publication

JAMA Network

The high levels of overweight among children and obesity among adults remain a major public health concern, according to a report in the June 16 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

According to background information in the article, "The prevalence of overweight and obesity is considered an important public health issue in the United States. Healthy People 2010 identified overweight and obesity as one of the 10 leading health indicators."

Allison A. Hedley, Ph.D., from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues updated the U.S. prevalence estimates of overweight in children and obesity in adults using the most recent national data of height and weight measurements. The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a probability sample of the U.S. non-institutionalized civilian population. Both height and weight measurements were obtained from 4,115 adults and 4,018 children in 1999 – 2000 and from 4,390 adults and 4,258 children in 2001-2002.

"For adults, overweight, obesity, and extreme obesity, were defined as body mass index (BMI, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) of 25.0 to 29.9, 30.0 or more, and 40.0 or more, respectively." For children, "at risk for overweight was defined as at or above the 85th percentile but less than the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI for age", as defined by the CDC growth charts. "Overweight was defined as at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI-for-age growth chart."

"Between 1999 – 2000 and 2001 – 2002, there were no significant changes among adults in the prevalence of overweight or obesity (64.5 percent vs. 65.7 percent), obesity (30.5 percent vs. 30.6 percent), or extreme obesity (4.7 percent vs. 5.1 percent), or among children aged 6 through 19 years in the prevalence of at risk for overweight or overweight (29.9 percent vs. 31.5 percent) or overweight (15.0 percent vs. 16.5 percent)," the authors found. "Overall, among adults aged at least 20 years in 1999 – 2002, 65.1 percent were overweight or obese, 30.4 percent were obese, and 4.9 percent were extremely obese. Among children aged 6 through 19 years in 1999 – 2002, 31 percent were at risk for overweight or overweight and 16 percent were overweight."

"The prevalence of obesity by age, sex, and racial/ethnic group ranged from 22.9 percent of non-Hispanic white men aged 20 through 39 years to 50.6 percent of non-Hispanic black women aged 40 through 59 years. Among women, non-Hispanic black women had the highest level of extreme obesity (13.5 percent) compared with 5.5 percent and 5.7 percent of non-Hispanic white and Mexican American women, respectively. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of obesity among men across racial/ethnic categories for all age groups. Among women aged at least 20 years, the prevalence of obesity differed significantly between racial/ethnic groups, with non-Hispanic white women having the lowest prevalence (30.7 percent), non-Hispanic black women having the highest (49.0 percent), and the prevalence among Mexican American women falling in between (38.4 percent). The prevalence of obesity was significantly higher among women than men."

In conclusion the authors write, "Substantial progress will need to be made in the efforts to lower the prevalence of overweight and obesity if the goals of Healthy People 2010 are to be met." (JAMA. 2004; 291:2847-2850. Available post-embargo at


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