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New survey underscores rise in obesity

By Gina Hill (CNN)

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CHICAGO (CNN) -- Experts say the number of obese adults in the United States is rising. Now new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention back them up.

The research -- a survey including 4,115 adult men and women conducted in 1999 and 2000 -- shows more than 30 percent of people in the United States are obese. That's an 8 percent increase over data collected from 1988 through 1994, according to the study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

There are also more extremely obese adults -- 4.7 percent of the population versus 2.9 percent in the 1988-1994 study.

The percentage of overweight American adults rose from 55.9, in the earlier study, to 64.5.

"Although these increases in obesity ... appear dramatic compared with previous surveys, they may also be viewed as part of a longer-term trend for increases in body size in affluent and well-nourished societies," the authors write.

The increase in obesity isn't just for grownups. Researchers also surveyed 4,722 children from birth to 19 years of age and found they're also getting fatter.

Five percent more young people between the ages of 12 and 19 -- at 15.5 percent -- are now overweight than found in the earlier study. In 6 to 11-year olds, an increase of 4 percent was seen. And there are now 3.2 percent more overweight 2 to 5-year olds.

The researchers used body mass index -- or BMI -- to identify obesity. Overweight was defined as having a BMI of 25 or higher. A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese and extreme obesity means having a BMI of 40 or more.

The researchers cite several possible reasons for the increase including:

  • Increasing food portion sizes
  • Consumption of high-fat fast foods
  • Increasingly sedentary lives
  • While reversing the trend of obesity "likely will be difficult" the researchers conclude, they do offer suggestions. "Interventions may focus on parental behaviors because parents determine the diet and physicial acitivity practices of their children," they write. "School-based programs also may help change diet and reduce sedentary behaviors."

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