US/World

If Current Habits Continue, Half of U.S. Adults Will Be Obese by 2030

obesity
The study suggests that people who eat a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugar may have impacted the hippocampus's ability to suppress unwanted thoughts that would cause them to modify eating habits. Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

Experts predict that unless Americans change their eating and exercise habits, half of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030.

Using a model of population and other trends based on data released by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the report "F as in Fat," from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, estimates at least a 44 percent obesity rate in every state and over 60 percent obesity rate in 30 states.

"If we take action, the number of Americans, particularly children, we could spare from type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other health problems is striking, and the savings in healthcare costs and increased productivity would have a real and positive impact on the economy," researchers Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, wrote in the report.

The latest report estimates that there will be around 7.9 million new cases of diabetes every year compared to 1.9 million new cases in recent years. Researchers also predict that there will be 6.8 million new cases of chronic heart disease and stroke every year compared with 1.3 million new cases per year now.

Researchers estimate that by 2030, Mississippi could have the highest obesity rate at 66.7 percent and Colorado would have the lowest at 44.8 percent. Currently, Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the country at 34.9 percent and Colorado has the lowest obesity rate at 20.7 percent, according to the CDC.

Not only will those potential gains in obesity translate to a tenfold increase in disease rates between 2010 and 2020, if the obesity rates continue to rise, there is a chance of disease rates doubling again by 2030, according to the report.

Researchers estimate that with the increase in obesity related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension and arthritis, there will be an increase in the annual healthcare costs associated with treating these preventative disease of $66 billion, to $210 billion compared to $147 billion.

The latest projection supports a study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that found that 41 percent of U.S. adults could be obese and 11 percent will be severely obese by 2030, which could add $550 billion to healthcare costs over that period.

However, researchers noted that if states manage to reduce the average adult body mass index by just 5 percent, only 24 states would have obesity rates of 50 percent in 2030 and thousands of cases of preventable obesity related disease could be prevented in each state.

Researchers believe that reducing the average adult BMI by 5 percent in every state would save 6.5 percent to 7.8 percent in obesity related healthcare spending.

Researchers stress that there should be greater investment in obesity prevention measures, like having new school meal standards, making physical education a priority in school, supporting healthy nutrition in federal food programs and encouraging the use of preventative healthcare services. 

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