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The Widespread Weight Problem

Obesity is a chronic, metabolic disease caused by multiple and complex inherited and acquired factors. It is a condition that affects at least 70 million Americans and is an increasing worldwide problem. Obesity is prevalent in Europe, the U.S., Caribbean nations, China, Japan, Malaysia, Samoa and the Middle East. However, estimating the number of obese individuals is difficult because experts cannot agree on an exact definition. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises three grades of excess body weight, grade 1 meaning the individual is overweight, while grades 2 and 3 signify obesity. Being overweight is not the same as being obese. A person who is overweight simply weighs more than a statistically calculated target weight given their gender, height, and age. Recent surveys have determined that approximately 54% of adults, about 11% of adolescents ages twelve to seventeen, and more than 14% of children ages six to eleven in the United States are overweight. These staggering figures, while not specifically measuring obesity, point to increases in obesity overall. The problem of obesity has gained much attention because it results in roughly 300,000 preventable deaths in the United States each year, which is surpassed only by the negative health outcomes of tobacco use. Obesity costs are estimated to exceed $100 billion annually and continue to grow with the rate of increase in obese individuals. In the last decade, the average number of obese individuals (defined as those with body weights 30% or more above their ideal body weight) increased over 6% in adult Americans ages 18–29. The greatest change is seen in the southern United States, where a 67% increase in the number of obese individuals was measured between 1991–1998. Overall, the proportion of the society that is obese has risen from 25% to over 32%, and it is predicted that by the year 2025, over 40% of adult population of the U.S. will be obese.

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