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Video: 42 percent of adults could be obese by 2030, study says

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    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: For everyone American who worries about their weight or the weight of their children, there is a stunning prediction tonight. Health experts warn that by the year 2030 , a staggering 42 percent of Americans will officially be obese, up from what it is now, 34 percent. And the cost of all of this is multiplying quickly. Our report tonight from NBC 's Anne Thompson .

    ANNE THOMPSON reporting: America is a nation that loves to eat. Despite what we all acknowledge as a growing problem, we are still tempted to indulge.

    THOMPSON: Our voracious appetite is such that now one third of Americans are obese.

    Source: Duke University/CDC

    THOMPSON: And today a new study projects that number will jump to 42 percent of adults by 2030 . And those 100 pounds overweight, classified as severely obese, will increase by 11 percent. A bigger nation means bigger medical problems and health care bills. But if we can hold the line, or more accurately our waist line, and not get any more obese, we could save $550 billion by 2030 . We get plenty of encouragement.

    THOMPSON: From NFL football heroes...

    Ms. MICHELLE OBAMA: Exercise and moving can be fun.

    THOMPSON: ...to the first lady. For kids, weight carries more than just stigma.

    Dr. ELIANA PERRIN (University of North Carolina): Older overweight children are more likely to have high blood pressure, to have higher cholesterol, and, you know, to be able to move less well and play less well.

    Unidentified Woman: Now take a big breath for me.

    THOMPSON: Saber Basruto lives with one of the consequences of childhood obesity, type two diabetes. She's lost weight, is on medication, and wants kids to learn from her.

    Ms. SABER BASRUTO: It's not about being skinny or looking great. It's about being fit. Just eat healthier.

    THOMPSON: But is weight gain just an energy equation, taking in more calories than you use? Or is it what we eat, refined sugars and grains that drive up insulin levels and can actually increase your appetite? One expert says it's not that simple.

    Dr. JANEY PRATT (Massachusetts General Hospital): We have a country that is perpetuating obesity because obese mothers are having children who are more likely to be obese as adults, and we have a toxic environment.

    THOMPSON: And Dr. Pratt says that toxic environment consists of portions that are too big and Americans who constantly eat. So what does a sedentary and overweight nation to do? Tomorrow we will get recommendations from the Institute of Medicine touted as comprehensive and evidence based, solutions that are likely to be as contentious at the many theories about the cause of

    our obesity problem. Brian: This is going to get interesting because previous attempts haven't worked. Anne Thompson , thanks, as

    WILLIAMS:

By
updated 5/7/2012 7:20:59 PM ET 2012-05-07T23:20:59

The obesity epidemic may be slowing, but don't take in those pants yet.

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Today, just over a third of U.S. adults are obese. By 2030, 42 percent will be, says a forecast released Monday.

That's not nearly as many as experts had predicted before the once-rapid rises in obesity rates began leveling off. But the new forecast suggests even small continuing increases will add up.

"We still have a very serious problem," said obesity specialist Dr. William Dietz of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Worse, the already obese are getting fatter. Severe obesity will double by 2030, when 11 percent of adults will be nearly 100 pounds overweight, or more, concluded the research led by Duke University.

That could be an ominous consequence of childhood obesity. Half of severely obese adults were obese as children, and they put on more pounds as they grew up, said CDC's Dietz.

Related: Mothers like chubby toddlers, study suggests

While being overweight increases anyone's risk of diabetes, heart disease and a host of other ailments, the severely obese are most at risk — and the most expensive to treat. Already, conservative estimates suggest obesity-related problems account for at least 9 percent of the nation's yearly health spending, or $150 billion a year.

Data presented Monday at a major CDC meeting paint something of a mixed picture of the obesity battle. There's some progress: Clearly, the skyrocketing rises in obesity rates of the 1980s and '90s have ended. But Americans aren't getting thinner.

Over the past decade, obesity rates stayed about the same in women, while men experienced a small rise, said CDC's Cynthia Ogden. That increase occurred mostly in higher-income men, for reasons researchers couldn't explain.

About 17 percent of the nation's children and teens were obese in 2009 and 2010, the latest available data. That's about the same as at the beginning of the decade, although a closer look by Ogden shows continued small increases in boys, especially African-American boys.

Does that mean obesity has plateaued? Well, some larger CDC databases show continued upticks, said Duke University health economist Eric Finkelstein, who led the new CDC-funded forecast. His study used that information along with other factors that influence obesity rates — including food prices, prevalence of fast-food restaurants, unemployment — to come up with what he called "very reasonable estimates" for the next two decades.

Part of the reason for the continuing rise is that the population is growing and aging. People ages 45 to 64 are most likely to be obese, Finkelstein said.

Today, more than 78 million U.S. adults are obese, defined as having a body-mass index of 30 or more. BMI is a measure of weight for height. Someone who's 5-feet-5 would be termed obese at 180 pounds, and severely obese with a BMI of 40 — 240 pounds.

The new forecast suggests 32 million more people could be obese in 2030 — adding $550 billion in health spending over that time span, Finkelstein said.

"If nothing is done, this is going to really hinder efforts to control health care costs," added study co-author Justin Trogdon of RTI International.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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