Obesity: A Growing Epidemic

Obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States and worldwide.  Defined as excessive fat accumulation that may impair health (or BMI >= 30), obesity is recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association. 

In the United States alone, the numbers are staggering.  According to the CDC, obesity rates have doubled for adults and tripled for children over the last thirty years.  Roughly two-thirds of adults are overweight and 36% are obese.  Among children between the ages of 2 and 19, 32% - nearly one-third-are overweight and 17% (12.5 million) are obese. 

The Health Consequences

Obesity has serious health consequences.  In adults, they include

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Endometrial, breast, and colon cancers
  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia (high fat levels in blood)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gynecological problems including infertility. 

Among children and youth, effects include risk factors for heart disease, pre-diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.   In addition, obese children are likely to be obese as adults, and are at risk for the adult health problems above.  

What’s most alarming:  many experts agree that today’s youth may be the first generation not expected to outlive their parents!  How can we prevent this?

Cut Out the Sugary Drinks!

A major culprit?  Sugar-sweetened beverages!  They are the single largest contributor to daily caloric intake in the United States.1   People are drinking more sugar than ever, double over the last 30 years.2 These drinks are cheap, easy-to-get, available everywhere, and relentlessly marketed even to children and teens. 

Adults who drink a soda or more daily are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese, regardless of income or ethnicity.3 Compared to children who rarely drink sugar-sweetened beverages, children who drink at least one serving per day are 55% more likely to be overweight or obese.4

Let's join together to "Kick the Can!"  To learn more about this topic, please visit our factsheets page.

1. Welsh JA, Sharma AJ, Grellinger L, Vos MB. Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(3):726-734.
2. Popkin BM. Patterns of beverage use across the lifecycle. Physiology & Behavior. 2010;100:4–9.
3. Babey SH, Jones M, Yu H, Goldstein H. Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and California Center for Public Health Advocacy, 2009.
4. Morenga LT, Mallard S, Mann J. Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies. Brit Med J. Jan 15 2013;346.