Obesity continues to be a serious health problem in the U.S., contributing to heart disease, diabetes, joint disorders and even certain types of cancer. And according to the latest data, more Americans will be obese by 2030 than ever before.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers led by Zachary Ward at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed body mass index (BMI) data reported by more than 6.2 million adults who answered questions for the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS), a large phone-based survey conducted by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies.
Because height and weight are self-reported in this survey, the researchers compared these data to those collected from more than 57,000 people in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), another CDC-led database that includes both interviews and physical exams. Using the NHANES data as a template, the scientists adjusted the data from BRFSS to account for any potential self-reporting biases.
The researchers found that, over the past few decades, rates of obesity, defined as having a BMI of 30 or greater, have been rapidly rising. For example, in 2000, no state had an obesity rate higher than 35%.
By 2010, a full 27 states were over that mark.