Oct 19

Know the Facts About Obesity in America

obese woman sitting on a bench thinking about her life overweight

You’re not alone in your struggle with obesity. And, there is help available. Consider your options and talk with your doctor or your local hospital’s weight loss center.


Learning the facts about obesity in America, helps us to understand what obesity is and means to each of us.

The following fact sheet, “Obesity in America,” is provided by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons (ASMBS).

The red numbers listed in chronological order are the references to the sources of the data presented in the fact sheet. Review the references/sources for these facts on the ASMBS website.





  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (35.7%) of
  • U.S. adults are obese, 1 up from 30.5% in 20002
    • During 1980-2008, obesity rates doubled for adults and tripled for children
  • Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest rates of obesity (44.1%) compared with Mexican Americans (39.3%), all Hispanics (37.9%) and non-Hispanic whites (32.6%) 1
  • Today, average Body Mass Index for men is 28.7 and average BMI for women is 28.52 (JAMA, 2012)
  • CDC reports at least 20% of people in each state are obese (2010)
  • Twenty-five percent or more in 36 states
  • Thirty percent or more in 12 states
  • Colorado the lowest (21%) and Mississippi the highest (34%) 1
  • CDC study projects 42% of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030, a 33% increase in prevalence over the two decades 4
  • Eleven percent will be severely obese


  • Individuals with BMI>30 have a 50-100% increased risk of premature death compared to healthy weight individuals 5
  • People with BMI>30 have increased risk of developing more than 40 diseases and conditions including:
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Types of cancer
    • Infertility
    • Liver disease and gallbladder disease
    • Orthopedic problems
    • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke


  • Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer found rates of several cancers linked to obesity, increased annually through 20087
    • 30-60% increased risk of endometrial cancer, adenocarcinoma and kidney cancer with 5-kg/m2 rise in BMI
    • 13-18% increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and postmenopausal breast cancer with 5-kg/m2 rise in BMI
    • 30-40% increased risk of colon, postmenopausal breast cancer and endometrial cancer with lack of physical activity
  • Between one-quarter and one-third of these cancers in industrialized nations are linked to excess weight and lack of physical activity, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer
    • This relationship can be caused by excess fat cells that influence the body to produce more insulin associated with pathogenesis of several cancers or hormones that stimulate tumor growth


  • Obesity accounts for nearly 21% of U.S. health care costs, with the 5% of morbidly obese Americans generating highest costs 8
  • Study by Society of Actuaries showed obesity cost the U.S. economy $198 billion in 2009 9
    • Included economic costs caused by increased need for medical care, and loss of economic productivity resulting from excess mortality and disability
  • CDC estimates medical care costs of obesity alone in 2008 were $147 billion10
    • Costs related to obese people were $1,850 higher per year than costs related to normal weight and $5,500 higher per year for morbidly obese people 11
  • If obesity prevalence remained at 2010 percentages, the U.S. would save $549.5 billion over the next 20 years 5


  • Obesity causes chronic inflammation as weight increases12
    • Excessive fat cells release biochemicals that lead to chronic inflammation, which can result in heart attack, stroke, cancer, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and joint and muscle pain13
  • Contributing factors to obesity include genetics, metabolism, culture, behavior, environment, socioeconomic status14, emotional factors, smoking and age 15, according to CDC and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)


  • Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight16
  • To calculate BMI, use the Body Mass Index Calculator on this website.


Review the references/sources for these facts on the ASMBS website.

About the author

Laurie Lee Dovey

LLD is a writer, photographer, marketing and media consultant, hunter, angler, RVer, sports nut, poker player, and wife.

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