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U.S. is the fattest nation reports new study

The obesity rate continues to increase in the planet’s most developed nations, including the United States; in addition, the increase is linked to the current economic slowdown
The obesity rate continues to increase in the planet’s most developed nations, including the United States; in addition, the increase is linked to the current economic slowdown
Robin Wulffson, MD

According to a new report published on May 26 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the obesity rate continues to increase in the planet’s most developed nations, including the United States. In addition, it noted that the increase is linked to the current economic slowdown. The report reveals obesity rates by gender, ethnicity, and age (children vs. adults).

Most of the OECD's 34 members are affluent nations such as the United States and European nations; however, some emerging economies such as Mexico and Turkey are also included. The group does not include China, India, or other larger developing nations.

The report notes that soaring obesity rates make the US the second fattest nation, behind Mexico, evaluated by the in the OECD, with 36.5% of obese adults. When overweight was included in the analysis, the investigators found that approximately 70% of US adults are overweight, which corresponds to the second highest rate in the OECD; Mexico holds the top spot with 71.3% of its population overweight.

Since the 1980s, overweight and obesity rates have increased steadily in both men and women. The report notes that the latest data confirm the findings of the Obesity Update 2012, and on a positive note that the prevalence of overweight has grown at a slower pace than previously projected by the OECD; it predicted a 1% per year growth until 2020, assuming past long-term trends would continue at the same pace. Another positive note is that the latest data point shows some sign of downturn in the rate of overweight in 2011-12.

Social disparities in overweight and obesity in the US exist; however, they are smaller than in most OECD nations. The report noted that virtually no disparities exist between the different educational levels in 2011-12. However, over the past 12 years, the probability of obesity in men and women has increased in all education groups but at a different pace.

In recent years, the degree of social inequality has remained virtually unchanged. In addition, ethnic disparities do exist in obesity rates, particularly for women. Compared to non-Hispanic Caucasian women, obesity rates are 24% higher in African-American women and 10% higher in Mexican-American women.

Child overweight rates in the US are among the highest in the OECD; however, the increase in obesity has slowed down. International data collated by the International Association for the Study of Obesity note that 1 in 3 children is overweight in USA, compared with 23% of boys and 21% of girls, on average, in OECD nations.

During the last 10 years, obesity and overweight rates among US children have become relatively stable. The most recent data reveal a slight decrease in obesity and overweight rates in boys; however, a rebound in obesity and overweight rates is observed in girls.

OECD health policy analyst Michele Cecchini noted in a statement that the economic crisis may have contributed to the growth in obesity, and stressed that most governments need to do more to stop this rising tide. The OECD noted that other policy efforts, such as stricter rules for advertising unhealthy foods to children, better food labeling and "carefully designed" food and beverage taxes could have an impact.