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Study predicts 90 percent of Americans could be fat by 2030

It was one of those numbers, like $10-a-gallon gas or $20 six-packs, that seemed designed to shock:

Could it really be that almost nine out of every 10 American adults will be overweight or obese — basically, more than 20 percent over their "ideal'' weight — in less than 25 years?

That's what a new study, based on national surveys, warns could happen if the weight-gain trends since the 1970s continue until 2030.

The research was carried out by scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The report was published online in the journal Obesity.

Currently, about two-thirds of American adults are considered either overweight or obese, as are about a third of school-age children.

The dire prediction is based on assumptions that people will continue behaving — and putting on the pounds — just as they have for the past 30 years. These behaviors include driving everywhere rather than walking, eating big mounds of unhealthful fast food, getting less and less exercise.

Long-term troubles

Many experts think there are already so many "super-sized" Americans that a century-long trend of greater life expectancy has slowed — and may even soon begin to reverse.

But government reports last fall suggested adult obesity rates were static, and a report in May showed childhood obesity rates were also steady, maybe even slightly declining in some regions.

Some experts took the report on kids, in particular, as a positive sign that a broad public health focus on reducing childhood obesity may be starting to pay off. Others warn that most overweight kids will still become overweight or obese adults, with long-term health consequences.

Medical science certainly has been aggressive in finding solutions, ranging from stomach-shrinking surgery in several forms to new food formulas to research into genes and hormones that spur us to eat or not eat.

One sure bet is that it will take personalized medicine to get us slim again.

You only have to consider "those people" — you know, the ones with the fast metabolism who seem to eat what they like and never gain weight — to appreciate that genes are a factor in jeans size.

Changing standards

We also know that the obesity battle is full of moving targets. Don't forget that shifting food pyramid, or that the government tumbled millions into the overweight category a decade ago by shifting the BMI (body mass index) threshold of being overweight to lower numbers.

The BMI is a measure of body fat based on a person's weight and height. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. Obesity is considered to start at a BMI of 30. To calculate your BMI, go to www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi.

Likewise with the recommended daily level of activity, which has been raised or lowered in recent years from at least 60 minutes a day of exercise down to as little as 30 minutes.

Now, the Archives of Internal Medicine reports the suggested "moderate'' workout is back up to 55 minutes a day, at least five days a week, for overweight and obese women (and probably men, too). This is said to be necessary to sustain a weight loss of 10 percent, for at least two years.

Study predicts 90 percent of Americans could be fat by 2030 08/11/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 2:05pm]
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