Experts warned Friday that half of the US population could be obese by 2030, according to a new report in the Lancet.
A two-decade trend of steady weight gain would see 65 million more obese adults, raising the national total to 164 million. Roughly one-third of the US population is currently obese.
“At the rate we´re looking at right now, it´s a dire prediction,” Claire Wang, assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University´s Mailman School of Public Health and lead author of the study, told ABC News. “Something has to be done.”
Obesity is fast replacing tobacco as the single most important preventable cause of chronic non-communicable diseases.
The increase in obesity diagnosis could lead to 7.8 million more cases of diabetes, 6.8 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and more than half a million extra cancer cases in the US, wreaking havoc on healthcare costs by $66 billion a year, according to the report.
“It´s not only a problem of well-being, it´s a financial burden. It´s both a public health issue and a health services issue for the states,” Wang added.
Overeating and lack of sufficient exercise is a growing problem everywhere and experts are warning about its ripple effects on health and healthcare spending. Obesity raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various cancers, hypertension and high cholesterol among others conditions.
The US is not the only country with a growing obesity problem, Britain´s obesity rates will balloon to between 41-48 percent for men and 35-43 percent for women by 2030 from what is now 26 percent for both sexes, health officials warned.
One in 20 women are obese in Japan and China, compared with 1 in 10 in the Netherlands, 1 in 4 in Australia and 7 in 10 in Tonga, according to another paper led by Boyd Swinburn and Gary Sacks of the WHO Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.
An estimated 1.5 billion adults are overweight and a further 500 million are obese worldwide, with 170 million children classified as overweight or obese. Obesity takes up between 2 to 6 percent of healthcare costs in many countries.
Director of the Center for Weight Management at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, Dr. Ken Fujioka, said ever-growing wait lists for obesity clinics are already three months long. “We´re having trouble keeping up,” Fujioka told ABC News, adding that roughly half of patients referred to his clinic are morbidly obese. “On the front lines, it´s just frightening.”
Bariatric surgery can be effective, but many patients are reluctant to undergo such an invasive procedure and results are less effective if aftercare is not followed correctly. Also, a dearth of drugs approved to treat obesity leaves few options for extreme weight loss short of strict diets and intense exercise programs.
“Many schools are having to cut down on physical education because of budget constraints,” Fujioka continued, “That is a huge mistake, not being able to get our kids to exercise.”
Ideally, changes come from the family and individual level. Weighing in with a bathroom scale can help people stay on top of their weight and monitor small changes. Cutting down on TV time and ramping up regular physical exercise, even a walk, can help balance calories consumed and spent. Also limiting access to junk food can make it easier to make healthier eating choices.
Worldwide, around 1.5 billion adults are overweight and a further 0.5 billion are obese, with 170 million children classified as overweight or obese. Obesity takes up between 2 to 6 percent of healthcare costs in many countries.
“Increased supply of cheap, tasty, energy-dense food, improved food distribution and marketing, and the strong economic forces driving consumption and growth are the key drivers of the obesity epidemic,” Boyd Swinburn and Gary Sacks of the WHO Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, told BBC News.
Health experts are urging governments to lead the reversal of obesity, “These include taxes on unhealthy food and drink (such as sugar sweetened beverages) and restrictions on food and beverage TV advertising to children,” wrote a team led by Steven Gortmaker at the Harvard School of Public Health, which published the fourth paper in the series.
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