By LEE BOWMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
October 04, 2005
The report, published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was based on the experience of more than 4,000 white adults who were the second generation of a long-term study of heart disease sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Participants were the offspring of the original Framingham Heart Study subjects, and were 30 to 59 years old when the next-generation study began. They were followed from 1971 to 2001.
"National surveys and other studies have told us that the United States has a major weight problem, but this study suggests that we could have an even more serious degree of overweight and obesity over the next few decades," said Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the institute.
"These results may underestimate the risks for some ethnic groups," she added, noting that other studies have shown that Hispanic and black individuals, especially women, have a greater prevalence of excess weight than their white counterparts.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 65 percent of Americans 20 and older are either overweight or obese, and approximately 30 percent are obese, based on a 1999-2002 national health survey.
Researchers used a standard measure of weight relative to height, or the body mass index, to gauge a participant's total body fat. Adults with an index of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight; 30 or above are considered obese.
In the new study, more than 1 out of 3 of the subjects either were or became obese in the course of the study.
And making it to middle age without extra pounds was no guarantee that you'll stay at a healthy weight, even short-term. About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 4 men who were at a healthy BMI during one exam became overweight by the time of the next follow-up four years later.
"Our results, while not surprising, are worrisome," said Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "If this trend continues, our country will continue to face substantial health problems related to excess weight."
Being overweight increases the likelihood of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, breathing problems, some cancers, arthritis and gall-bladder disease.
But research also shows that people who are overweight or obese can lower their risk for many of those conditions by losing as little as 10 percent of their body weight.
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