Has the Obesity Rate Peaked?

Articles
November 23, 2010

Has the Obesity Rate Peaked?

American’s waistlines will continue to expand until just under half, 42 percent, of the nation is considered obese; according to a prediction by a team of researchers at Harvard University.

American’s waistlines will continue to expand until just under half, 42 percent, of the nation is considered obese; according to a prediction by a team of researchers at Harvard University. This prediction is contrary to other expert predictions that say the obesity rate has peaked at the current 34 percent of the population. Led by the same group that reported back in 2007 that having an obese friend increases a person’s chances of becoming obese by more than half, this finding is based on a mathematical model that was applied to four decades of data from the Framingham Heart Study.
 
Researchers looked at the probability of becoming obese and its influences. As reported in Reuters, over the long-running study, the rate of weight gain caused by social interaction – spending time with obese friends - has grown quite rapidly since the 70s. Researchers say it looks like obesity is becoming more infectious. In fact, the team found that an adult living in the US has about a two percent chance of becoming obese in any given year, and on top of that, each obese social contact (having obese friends) increases the risk of becoming obese by half of a percent. Unfortunately, having more healthy-weight friends was not found to help people lose weight. 
 
Researchers believe this is the “best case scenario,” and that changes in public policy can make a difference. So here is where retailers step in; create programs to promote healthy eating and weight loss among overweight individuals - the supermarket can play a central role in making healthy purchasing decisions and encouraging continued healthy behaviors. Partner with local health clinics, nutritionists as well as involving in store dieticians, chefs and local health clubs. Community is vital if we are to prove the Harvard researchers wrong. 
 
For reference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that obesity related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of medical spending in the U.S., an estimated $147 billion a year.
 
The Harvard University findings are reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Computational Biology.