Beyond the human suffering, diet-related diseases impose massive economic costs.
Obesity rates in the United States continue to worsen. So, too, does economic inequality. Are these trends related?
After remaining essentially flat in the 1950s and 1960s, the prevalence of obesity doubled in adults and tripled in children between the 1970s and 2000. According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control, the epidemic shows no signs of abating. Nearly four out of 10 adults are obese; for children, it’s nearly two out of 10. Most 2-year-olds today will develop obesity by age 35, according to a recent projection from our colleagues at Harvard.
The obesity epidemic affects every region of the country and every demographic group. But rates have increased the fastest among low-income Americans and racial minorities, exacerbating pre-existing health disparities.
Weight-related complications like hypertension, fatty liver, orthopedic problems, sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes are bad enough when they strike in middle age. But they have become relatively commonplace at pediatricians’ practices across the country. In adults, obesity substantially increases the risk for some of the most feared illnesses, like heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. At all ages, obesity is associated with social isolation, depression and other major mental health problems.