January 8, 2003

Obesity in the United StatesA Fresh Look at Its High Toll

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass (Drs Manson and Bassuk); and Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston (Dr Manson).

JAMA. 2003;289(2):229-230. doi:10.1001/jama.289.2.229

Obesity has become pandemic in the United States. Currently, 2 in 3 US adults are classified as overweight or obese, compared with fewer than 1 in 4 in the early 1960s.1,2 Although still viewed more as a cosmetic rather than a health problem by the general public, excess weight is a major risk factor for premature mortality, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, certain cancers, and other medical conditions.3 Obesity accounts for more than 280 000 deaths annually in the United States and will soon overtake smoking as the primary preventable cause of death if current trends continue.4 Indeed, obesity is already associated with greater morbidity and poorer health-related quality of life than smoking, problem drinking, or poverty.5 Despite this, excess weight has not received the same attention from clinicians and policymakers as have other threats to health such as tobacco use, hypertension, or hypercholesterolemia. Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that obesity rates continue to climb, even as significant reductions in other risk factors have been achieved.6

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