Parent's Resource Center

Most Americans are Overweight

(January 1997 HeartInfo) - A report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics was presented by Katherine Flegal at the October 1996 meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. In this report, researchers determined that 49% of women in the U.S. and 59% of men have a body mass index (B.M.I.) over 25, which means more than half of Americans are overweight. Of people between the ages of 50 and 60, 64% of women and 73% of men were identified as overweight. (B.M.I is measured by dividing weight in kilograms [one kilogram = 2.2 pounds] by the height in meters squared [one meter = 39.37 inches] [kg/m2]).

Obesity, which refers to excess body fat, is recognized as a risk factor for heart disease. Being overweight means a person has excess body weight. The new measure of B.M.I. is a more accurate measure of obesity since it measures body fat. According to health professionals, B.M.I. is a more accurate measure than height/weight tables. The Mayo Clinic states that a B.M.I. between the range of 19 and 25 is healthy: a B.M.I. above the 25 to 28 range can be an indicator for cardiovascular and other diseases. Obesity raises cholesterol and triglyceride levels, raises blood pressure, lowers HDL (good) cholesterol, and can cause the onset of diabetes. The primary cause of obesity is the consumption of too many calories and lack of exercise.

The study's classifications of obesity were more stringent than those established in a recent report, released by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments, which identified 27.3 and 27.8 as markers for obesity for women and men respectively, with a median B.M.I. measured at 26.7%.

The American Heart Association (AHA) defines obesity as follows: "when body weight exceeds desirable weight for height and gender by 20% or more and when the excess weight is fat rather than water, muscle or bone."

Regardless of the specific definitions of obesity established in individual research studies on obesity, scientists find Americans, including children, are becoming fatter at an alarming rate.



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Revised: November 14, 2006