A new Gallup survey found that 27.1 percent of Americans are obese, the highest percentage since the polling agency began tracking well being in 2008.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index calculated the body mass index, or BMI, of 178,072 U.S. adults. People with BMIs of greater than 30 are considered to be obese.
That cohort has grown by 1.6 percentage points since 2008, from 25.5 percent to 27.1 percent in 2013, according to Gallup’s figures. In 2012, 26.2 percent of those surveyed were obese.
The number of “morbidly obese”, or those with BMIs of greater than 40, rose slightly, from 3.6 percent in 2012 to 3.8 percent in 2013.
Obesity increases were greatest for middle Americans — those who are middle-aged, middle-class and living in the Midwest.
Rates for middle-aged Americans, those between age 45 and 64, rose the most, from 30.7 in 2012 to 32.5 in 2013. The middle class, people earning between $36,000 and $90,000, saw their obesity rates increase from 26 percent to 27.7 percent. And Midwesterners’ obesity rates increased from 27.4 percent to 28.6 percent.
Black Americans had the highest obesity rates of all subgroups surveyed.
The physical risks arising from obesity are well known. Obesity increases the risk for various ailments, including heart disease and diabetes — but there’s an economic impact as well.
Gallup cited its own previous research into the economic costs of the obesity epidemic, as some have called it. The study, from 2011, found that overweight and obese Americans lose 450 million days of work collectively each year, costing nearly $114 billion in lost productivity.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration released a proposal to update Nutrition Facts labels found on food packages.
First Lady Michelle Obama also celebrated a new report on childhood obesity released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control.
The report found a 43 percent decrease over the past decade in the rates of obesity for children between 2 to 5 years old. Obama moved quickly to tie the improvement to the Let’s Move! campaign.
“I am thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans,” said Obama in a statement to the CDC. “With the participation of kids, parents, and communities in Let’s Move! these last four years, healthier habits are beginning to become the new norm.”
Despite Obama’s excitement, the obesity rates for other groups in that study did not improve, with obesity rates for some cohorts actually climbing.
“Overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012,” concluded the study.
Alarmingly, obesity rates for women over 60 jumped from 31.5 percent in 2003-2004 to 38 percent in 2011-2012.
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