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August 28, 1981

The Dilemma of Morbid Obesity

Author Affiliations

From the Medical (Dr Van Itallie) and Surgical (Dr Kral) Services, St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, and the Departments of Medicine and Surgery, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York.

JAMA. 1981;246(9):999-1003. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320090057035

A NATIONWIDE survey in the United States completed in 1974 has shown that 15% of men and 25% of women aged 20 to 74 years were 20% or more overweight, based on standards derived from a representative population aged 20 to 29 years.1 Among women aged 55 to 64 years, 35% were similarly overweight. The same survey showed that 5% of men and 7% of women were "severely" obese (ie, with a body fat content, determined by skinfold thickness, greater than the 95th percentile for men and nonpregnant women aged 20 to 29 years). When this criterion was applied to body weight, it was found that the severely obese men were 30% or more above average weight for their height and age, while the severely obese women were 50% or more above average weight. Of this subset, between 8% and 10% (about 600,000 people) had a body weight twice