Obesity Rates: Will Americans Be More Obese in 2020?

istock_000017441170xsmallIt’s hardly news that America has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, but it’s a problem that has health implications. Even though fewer Americans smoke and more are being treated for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the rate of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome continues to rise.

Even more concerning, people are getting diseases of old age earlier in life. Type 2 diabetes was once a disease almost exclusively of adults, but now kids get it too, usually overweight or obese children and teens. It’s a disturbing trend. Does it show any signs of slowing down or will Americans continue to carry around extra “baggage” that puts them at risk for health problems and shortens their lifespan?

The Obesity Rate Will Continue to Rise
According to research presented at the latest annual meeting of the American Heart Association, a whopping 42% of women and 43% of men will be obese by the year 2020. Right now, about 1 in 3 Americans are obese, so the upward trend should continue at least through the year 2020. That obesity rate has more than doubled since 1980.

The number of people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome is also expected to rise along with the rate of obesity. This not only affects the health of individual Americans, it increases health care costs. According to information published in Marketwire, obesity now accounts for 9.1% of all health care costs, which has risen from 6.5% in 1998.

Will Nutritional Labeling Help?

But there are some bright spots on the horizon. According to Health on the Restaurant Menu: Foodservice Trends in the U.S., Americans are becoming more aware of the calorie content of what they eat, thanks to better nutritional labeling. Americans now eat one out of six meals away from home, and restaurants are feeling the pressure to be more open about the calorie content of what they’re serving.

These days when you buy a sandwich at McDonald’s, you can easily see how many calories your Quarter Pounder with Cheese has. It may not change the eating habits of Americans right away, but it at least creates awareness. It also puts more pressure on restaurants to keep calorie counts more reasonable.

Nutritional labels are still tricky to interpret though. Some labels give the calorie count for a half-serving, and unless you pick up on this, you’ll eat twice the calories without even being aware of it.

More Exercise, Less Snacking

The other problem is lack of exercise. Sixty-percent of the world’s population isn’t active enough, and technology is making it easier and easier to get things done without ever leaving a chair. The combination of easy access to convenience food that’s high in calories and less physical activity is a bad combination when it comes to health and weight control.

The Bottom Line?

It doesn’t look like Americans will be getting any slimmer in the foreseeable future. The upward obesity trend continues, but there’s hope on the horizon as people become more aware of the calorie content of what they’re eating.



NPR. “Americans Are Fat, and Expected to Get Much Fatter”
Marketwire. “The Carrot and the Stick: Health Concerns Are Transforming the Restaurant Industry”
Marketresearch.com. “Health on the Restaurant Menu: Foodservice Trends in the U.S.”
Journal of the American Board of Family Practice. September 1, 2004 vol. 17 no. 5 319-323.
President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.


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