America’s obesity epidemic: Women putting on significantly more pounds than men

PROVO, Utah — It’s no secret that America has a weight problem. Still, researchers from Brigham Young University are revealing just how widespread expanding waists have become. Scientists tracked nearly 1,400 American adults for a decade. More than half saw their body weight increase by at least five percent, while over a third gained 10 percent or more body weight. Close to a fifth gained at least 20 percent more body weight.

“The U.S. obesity epidemic is not slowing down,” says study lead author Larry Tucker, a BYU professor of exercise science, in a university release. “Without question, 10-year weight gain is a serious problem within the U.S. adult population.”

Participants were chosen for this project randomly as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an annual nationally representative survey sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Who’s gaining the most weight?

An analysis of the data revealed 10-year weight gain tended to be much more significant among U.S. women than men. Women gained roughly twice as much weight (an average of 12 pounds for females, six pounds for males).

African American women dealt with the greatest average weight gain over the studied decade (19.4 pounds). Conversely, Asian men gained the least weight on average (2.9 pounds).

What about age? Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest weight gains were seen in young and middle-aged adults. It appears Americans generally gain less weight as they get older.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown by age:

  • 17.6 pounds gained between their 20s and 30s
  • 14.3 pounds gained between their 30s and 40s
  • 9.5 pounds gained between their 40s and 50s
  • 4.6 pounds gained between their 50s and 60s

If an adult were to experience all of those “average weight gains” during each decade of their life, it would mean a total weight gain of over 45 pounds. Such a large increase in bodyweight would push many Americans into obese territory. Today, the CDC estimates over 42 percent of Americans are currently obese. In 2000, only 30.5 percent of Americans fell into this category.

“In roughly 20 years, the prevalence of obesity increased by approximately 40% and severe obesity almost doubled,” Prof. Tucker concludes. “By knowing who is more likely to become obese, we can help health care providers and public health officials focus more on at-risk individuals.”

The study is published in the Journal of Obesity.

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