The US obesity crisis is deepening, according to new research out of Brigham Young University.

The study, which looked at nearly 14,000 US adults, shows that more than half of Americans have gained 5% or more bodyweight over a 10-year period. More than a third of Americans have gained 10% or more, and over 20% have gained 20% or more body weight.

“The U.S. obesity epidemic is not slowing down,” said study lead author Larry Tucker, a BYU professor of exercise science. “Without question, 10-year weight gain is a serious problem within the U.S. adult population.”

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Obesity crisis: it’s getting worse, not better

Participants in the study were selected randomly as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an annual survey that takes a nationally representative sample of adults. These studies began in the early 1960s and became a continuous program in 1999.

Using the NHANES data, the researchers discovered that 10-year weight gain was significantly greater in women than in men, with women gaining about twice as much weight.

Women gained 12 pounds on average, compared to 6 pounds for men.

Weight gain also differed across races, with Black women experiencing the greatest average weight gain over the 10-year period (19.4 pounds) and Asian men experiencing the least (2.9 pounds).

With regards to age, the greatest gains in weight were seen in young and middle-aged adults.

According to the data, on average Americans gain the following weight:

  • 17.6 pounds between their 20s and 30s
  • 14.3 pounds between their 30s and 40s
  • 9.5 pounds between their 40s and 50s
  • 4.6 pounds between their 50s and 60s

If adults gain the average amount of weight during each decade of adult life, they will have gained more than 45 pounds, which would push many of them into the obese category.

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According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC, just over 42% of U.S. adults are currently obese. The figure was 30.5% in 2000.

“In roughly 20 years, the prevalence of obesity increased by approximately 40% and severe obesity almost doubled,” Tucker said.

“By knowing who is more likely to become obese, we can help health care providers and public health officials focus more on at-risk individuals.”

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