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Original Contribution
April 5, 2006

Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in the United States, 1999-2004

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Md (Drs Ogden, Carroll, Curtin, McDowell, Tabak, and Flegal), and Epidemic Intelligence Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga (Dr Tabak).

JAMA. 2006;295(13):1549-1555. doi:10.1001/jama.295.13.1549

Context The prevalence of overweight in children and adolescents and obesity in adults in the United States has increased over several decades.

Objective To provide current estimates of the prevalence and trends of overweight in children and adolescents and obesity in adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants Analysis of height and weight measurements from 3958 children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years and 4431 adults aged 20 years or older obtained in 2003-2004 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative sample of the US population. Data from the NHANES obtained in 1999-2000 and in 2001-2002 were compared with data from 2003-2004.

Main Outcome Measures Estimates of the prevalence of overweight in children and adolescents and obesity in adults. Overweight among children and adolescents was defined as at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific body mass index (BMI) for age growth charts. Obesity among adults was defined as a BMI of 30 or higher; extreme obesity was defined as a BMI of 40 or higher.

Results In 2003-2004, 17.1% of US children and adolescents were overweight and 32.2% of adults were obese. Tests for trend were significant for male and female children and adolescents, indicating an increase in the prevalence of overweight in female children and adolescents from 13.8% in 1999-2000 to 16.0% in 2003-2004 and an increase in the prevalence of overweight in male children and adolescents from 14.0% to 18.2%. Among men, the prevalence of obesity increased significantly between 1999-2000 (27.5%) and 2003-2004 (31.1%). Among women, no significant increase in obesity was observed between 1999-2000 (33.4%) and 2003-2004 (33.2%). The prevalence of extreme obesity (body mass index ≥40) in 2003-2004 was 2.8% in men and 6.9% in women. In 2003-2004, significant differences in obesity prevalence remained by race/ethnicity and by age. Approximately 30% of non-Hispanic white adults were obese as were 45.0% of non-Hispanic black adults and 36.8% of Mexican Americans. Among adults aged 20 to 39 years, 28.5% were obese while 36.8% of adults aged 40 to 59 years and 31.0% of those aged 60 years or older were obese in 2003-2004.

Conclusions The prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents and obesity among men increased significantly during the 6-year period from 1999 to 2004; among women, no overall increases in the prevalence of obesity were observed. These estimates were based on a 6-year period and suggest that the increases in body weight are continuing in men and in children and adolescents while they may be leveling off in women.