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02/04/2011  –  American Waistlines Expand at Fastest Pace

American Waistlines Expand at Fastest Pace Among Rich Nations, Study Finds

By Eva von Schaper - Feb 3, 2011 7:01 PM ET


Americans grew fatter at a faster pace than residents of any other wealthy nation since 1980, during a period when obesity worldwide nearly doubled, researchers found.

Almost 10 percent of the world’s population was obese in 2008, according to studies published today by the medical journal The Lancet. The percentage of people with uncontrolled hypertension, or high blood pressure, fell, with high-income countries showing a larger drop. Cholesterol levels declined in North America, Australia and Europe, but increased in East and Southeast Asia as well as the Pacific region, researchers said.

The rise in obesity, as measured by body mass index, is worrying and may lead to an increase in diabetes, said Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London, who led the research. Ezzati suggested taxing sugary drinks and sweets as well as rethinking transportation, such as adding bike lanes.

“We are at best buying some time” Ezzati said in an interview yesterday. “We have to get very serious about BMI, beyond good intentions.” Policy changes may begin to reduce obesity in as little as five years, he said.

The findings about Americans and obesity add to evidence that the U.S. has a weight problem. About 68 percent of American adults are overweight, raising their risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer, according to the 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Almost 34 percent are obese.