The share of overweight and obese Americans has tripled since the 1980s, according to data that heralds the nation’s obesity crisis.
In the year In the late 1980s, no more than 15 percent of the adult population was considered overweight or obese.
But now US health officials say the rate has risen to an ‘epidemic’, with obesity rates reaching 42 percent nationally.
Experts say the shift is due to people starting to eat highly processed foods, which are high in fat, sugar and salt but low in essential nutrients.
Americans are beginning to have more sedentary lifestyles and office-based jobs, and many in rural communities are now living in food deserts.
The map above shows how obesity has increased across the country from 1987 to 2021. In the beginning, less than 15 percent of adults were obese, but now the rate has reached 42 percent
The map above shows obesity rates across the US by state in 1987. It shows that no state had a level above 15 percent
In the year By 2003, however, the picture had changed, with most states having more than 20 percent obesity.
America’s obesity crisis was declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1999.
It is monitored through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which tracks trends at the national level.
Each year, a group of 400,000 Americans are asked about their weight and height in the survey.
Their answers are converted into a body mass index (BMI), which is used to calculate obesity in each state and for the entire population.
In the year In 1987, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent—but most were below 10 percent.
But by 2003, rates had risen, with nearly half of states having obesity rates between 20 and 24 percent. None were less than 10 percent.
Experts warn that this sudden change is likely related to changing American diets.
Obesity began to rise in the 1980s, around the same time that highly processed foods — including pizza, ice cream and sugar-sweetened beverages — became part of a large American diet.
These foods are high in fat, sugar and salt, but low in essential micro- and macro-nutrients – which makes people eat more.
In the year By 2021, 42 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese, according to official data.
In the state, there were two – Kentucky and West Virginia – had rates above 40 percent, and 17 had figures between 35 and 40 percent.
To buck the trend, CDC maps have now added a category for states where one in two people are overweight or obese, presumably to prepare for ever-increasing waistlines.
Researchers at Athabasca University in Canada analyzed the obesity rate in America 2022These are the main drivers for America’s expanding waistline, he said.
They cited various studies showing that between 1978 and 1997, the average American diet dropped 36.7 grams of sugar per day.
“There is strong evidence that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages leads to increased energy consumption and weight gain,” he said.
A similar pattern is seen with other highly processed foods.
‘Factors contributing to the rise in ultra-processed foods include relatively low prices and the rise in popularity of fast-food restaurants.’
Physical activity has been on the decline since the 1960s and 70s, now that more and more Americans are working office-based jobs.
But Athabasca University scientists insist it is playing a ‘minor role’ in the obesity epidemic.
And this map As of 2010, an increasing number of states have obesity rates above 25 percent.
This map shows overall obesity rates as of 2021, the latest data available
The map above shows obesity by state across the US in 2021. It was highest in Kentucky and West Virginia, but lowest in Hawaii and Colorado. Washington, D.C., which is not yet a state, had the lowest rate.
The graph above shows the prevalence of diabetes as a percentage of the population, which is a key risk factor for diabetics. Since the early 2000s, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in diagnosed diabetics has increased.
A rural-urban divide has also emerged, with prices higher in rural areas where access to healthy food is less.
The CDC’s acting deputy director, Debra Houry, said last year that the data ‘highlight the urgent need for obesity prevention and treatment for Americans in every state and every community.’
Excess weight can accumulate on vital body parts – impairing their function – the added weight puts pressure on the joints and legs.
Fat cells secrete hormones into the body, which can cause a person to struggle to control their appetite and be at a higher level of inflammation.
Scientists have linked obesity to a number of conditions, including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes — and Alzheimer’s.
Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, behind smoking, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Each year, approximately 280,000 Americans die directly from obesity.
President Joe Biden has unveiled plans to control the nation’s waistline, including introducing a nutrition label on the front of food products to highlight foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
Standards for “healthy” foods have also been tightened by strict laws.