Study: U.S. Obesity Rate Has Leveled Off

A study released today shows that the overall U.S. obesity rate has plateaued. But we're not out of the woods yet.

I bet you never thought you’d see me put the words “obesity” and “good news” in the same sentence, but here goes: Good news! New government data shows that, overall, the U.S. obesity rate seems to be leveling off.

(Okay, fine, that’s technically two sentences. Get off my back.)

The analysis, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that after initially exploding in the 1980s and ’90s, the number of obese Americans has pretty much plateaued in the last few years—meaning we seem to be about as fat as we’re going to get (at least for now).

The data reveals that rates of obesity in women have been consistent since 1999, while that of adult men has remained steady since 2003 (the change of a percentage point or two over the years is considered insignificant). The obesity rate among kids, too, has leveled off over the past few years.

Here’s the bad news: Experts found no indication that our waistlines are going to shrink any time soon. And while the overall obesity rate has come to a standstill, rates have risen among certain subgroups and populations, like Hispanics and blacks.

Something else to consider: Even though we’ve plateaued, our obesity rates are still scary high. The new report found that more than a third of adults (35.7%) are obese, along with 16.9 percent of kids. If we add overweight individuals to the mix, we’re looking at 69 percent for adults and 31.8 percent of kids.

In other words, we still have our work cut out for us. Better put away that bottle of celebratory champagne.