More than half of young American adults are either overweight or obese, according to new Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine research.
In a study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a team analyzed a nationally representative sample of 8,015 nonpregnant people ages 18 to 25 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
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The survey has been conducted multiple times over the past 40 years.
“Across all years, 8,015 emerging adults were included. Of these, 3,965 were female, 3,037 were non-Hispanic Black and 2,386 met criteria for household poverty,” the study noted.
Comparing average weights, the researchers found that the population’s average body mass index (BMI) had increased by 4.6 points to 27.7 from 23.1.
Fifty-six percent of those in that age group are considered to be either overweight or obese and the number of overweight young adults rose from approximately 18% in the late 1970s to nearly 24% in 2018.
Obesity increased from 6% to nearly 33%. Individuals with a normal BMI dropped from 69% to 38%.
In addition, data from the survey showed that 42% of all American adults had obesity between 2017-2018, with 9.2% of all adults having severe obesity.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. obesity prevalence was more than 42% during that same year.
The agency shows that from 1999-2000 through 2017-2018, American obesity prevalence increased to 42.4% from 30.5%.
Non-Hispanic Black adults had the highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity and men and women with college degrees had lower obesity prevalence compared with those with less education.
Among men, obesity prevalence was lower in the lowest and highest income groups compared with the middle-income group and obesity prevalence was lower in the highest income group than in the middle and lowest income groups among women.
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The agency highlights that obesity can lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.
“A healthy diet and regular physical activity help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight starting at an early age and continuing throughout life,” the CDC advises.