Obesity Will Keep Increasing, Rate May Slow

May 9th, 2012
in econ_news

Econintersect:  A study by researchers at Duke University, RTI International in Research Triangle Park and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) obesitySMALLindicates that the obesity rate in the U.S. may increase more slowly than expected over the next twenty years.  However the number of people classified as extremely overweight is likely to keep climbing sharply.  If the trends of the past were to continue it has been projected that from 50% to 70% of the country could be obese by 2030.  The new study suggests that extrapolation of past rates is not likely to be a good predictor going forward.  The results indicate that a better projection obtained by studying variables correlated with obesity, such as trends in unemployment, pricing for fast food and even internet access, gives an increase in obesity from about 31% in 2010 to reach 42% of the population by 2030.  The results were presented Monday (7 May 2012) the annual conference on the subject of weight sponsored by the CDC in Washington, DC.

Follow up:

A graphic from the Los Angeles Times summarizes the projected changes:


At the most serious extreme the problem of obesity is growing more rapidly.   From the Raleigh News & Observer (newsobserver.com):

Particularly alarming, they said, is that their study suggests that the percentage of people who are considered severely obese – around 100 pounds overweight – is expected to more than double, so that by 2030 it will include 11 percent of the American population.

The added healthcare cost of the increase in obesity is estimated to be about $550 billion spread over the next twenty years as 32 million more people will fall into the category. For the severely obese increased work absenteeism and loss of productivity is also a larger economic loss.

According to research report from George Washington University the 2009 added healthcare costs of obesity totaled between $150 and $170 billion annually. The current components of cost annually in 2012 from the Reuters article:

  • $190 billion – Increased medical costs
  • $ 6.4 billion - Absenteeism
  • $ 30 billion - Loss of productivity while at work

Note: There is a statement in the Reuters article that Econintersect does not understand:

$190 billion a year in additional medical spending as a result of obesity, .. or 20.6 percent of U.S. health care expenditures.”

This infers that the total healthcare costs in the U.S. are less than $1 trillion. All credible sources that Econintersect can locate agree that the cost is in excess of $2.5 trillion.

The growing number of people who are obese and the shifting of the population toward higher levels of obesity lead to a compounding of healthcare cost increases. The GW University report has the following table which demonstrates how the average cost per person for medical costs escalates as the degree of obesity increases:


The GW University report also assesses other added costs of obesity including added gasoline costs, added life insurance premium costs, short-term disability costs, productivity, absenteeism and disablility pension insurance. The report specifically mentions costs that were not assessed included long-term disability, forced early retirement, work limitations, probability of employment, clothing expenses and increased transportation costs other than gasoline.

Why has the incidence of obesity been increasing? The Weight of the Nation has summarized some of the reasons in the following info graphics.

Click on a graphic for larger image.


Calorie counts are up and sedentary time per day is up:  QED.

There is a big HBO special on obesity and how the problem can be tackled starting on May 14.  The Weight of the Nation is one of the organizations involved.  Below is a video discussing one of the most important factors in obesity and related diseases such as diabetes that will be discussed on HBO.

Dr. Mark Hyman is Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, and was awarded its 2009 Linus Pauling Award for Leadership in Functional Medicine. He is currently medical editor at the Huffington Post and on the Medical Advisory Board at The Doctor Oz Show. He is on the Board of Directors of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and a faculty member of its Food As Medicine training program.  Dr. Hyman will explain why the most important factor in addressing this problem starts with what you put on your fork.

John Lounsbury


Hat tip to Roberta Kruse Fordham.

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1 comment

  1. Derryl Hermanutz says :

    I have a 2011 book by Dr Jerry Tennant called "Healing is Voltage", based on research from a 1985 book called by Dr Robert O Becker called "Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life",, that looks at eating and nutrition from the perspective of cellular electricity. Tennant explains that our cell membranes are constructed of fats, and the correct kinds of fats produce membranes of the proper electrical permeability. Cellular electricity is generated by altering concentrations of potassium and sodium ions on either side of the cell membrane, and the membrane stores voltage like a battery to provide electrons as required to enable chemical reactions within the cell. Tennant says hydrogenated fats, which are the mainstay of fast foods and processed foods, have misplaced hydrogen atoms on the fatty acid chain that the cells do not recognize as the toxins they are (Tennant says hydrogenation converts natural fats to a substance chemically almost identical to plastic), so cells build their membranes with this "plastic" that destroys their appropriate bioelectrical properties. So cells signal they are hungry, people eat, and nutrients are transported to the cell membrane where they can't get through the plastic membrane. So the cells are starving even though the person continues to eat, and the excess calories convert to body fat. In the 1960s "plastic people" were phonies, not "real" down to earth people. Now, after decades of hydrogenated fat consumption, we may be literally made of plastic.

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