health concerns

America’s Obesity Epidemic Is Only Getting Worse

A burger a day will not keep the doctor away. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

How overweight are Americans these days? The biggest they’ve ever been, and by far: New government data shows that roughly 100 million people in this country are now obese, a “sharp increase” from the previous decade. These numbers — the latest from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey — put the rate of obese adults at 39.6 percent. It is also a significant rise from statistics about American obesity just ten years ago.

Health experts were quick to tell the New York Times that they’re “alarmed” by these new stats, and it’s easy to see why. This new survey, however, is just one reason why America’s obesity problem is more severe than ever. Here’s what else you need to know:

• According to the NHANES data, 41.1 percent of women and 37.9 of men are now obese. But prevalence of Class 3 obesity (the CDC’s term for “severely” obese people 100 pounds or more overweight, or with a BMI above 40) is also skyrocketing. New data show that about 8 percent of adults now fall into Class 3, up from less than 6 percent in 2007.

• According to nutritionists, campaigns explaining why bad diets are dangerous “do not seem” to reduce the seemingly relentless rise in America’s obesity rate. “Most people know that being overweight or obese is unhealthy,” one researcher tells the Times, but “just telling people there’s a problem doesn’t solve it.”

• Most ads during sports games these days involve junk food. Researchers just looked at the events kids watch in particular, and found that 76 percent of the foods shown are unhealthy, and 52 percent of advertised nonalcoholic drinks have added sugars. This past NFL season was also the first that allowed hard-liquor brands to buy ads during games.

• Junk-food sales in America are, coincidentally, also on a steep climb. They rose 23 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to market-research firm Euromonitor, while the sales of packaged food rose almost 9 percent.

• Overeating is, in some cases, even leaving people unable to taste the food. “Taste dysfunction” is a condition in which the taste buds struggle to differentiate the five basic tastes — salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. All doctors know about the condition is that it’s linked to obesity; they have almost no remedy, although new research may finally have found the cause.

• The one bit of good news: The kids are all right. The NHANES data found that the percent of youths who are obese or severely obese rose slightly in the last decade, but “not enough to be statistically significant.”

America’s Obesity Epidemic Is Only Getting Worse