U.S. Obesity Rate Hits a Costly New High
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The Fiscal Times
May 22, 2014

The percentage of obese Americans has grown to its highest rate in at least five years. A new survey from Gallup shows that obesity has ticked up to 27.7 percent, up from 27 percent last year. The rate was 25.5 percent in 2008, when Gallup began tracking it.

Obesity, recently declared a disease by the American Medical Association, is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. Across major demographic categories, obesity rates are higher or stable so far in 2014 compared with 2013, says Gallup. Among older Americans ages 65 and up, the obesity rate ticked up 1.6 points, to 27.9 percent, for the biggest increase among subgroups. 

Related: The Big Fat Lie We’ve Been Fed About Our Diet

Currently, more than 22 million Americans – or 7 percent of the population – have diabetes. That number is expected to keep climbing, along with the costs of treating those with diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

Total spending on diabetes treatment has risen in the last few years, with the total cost hovering around $245 billion in 2012, according to a report from the American Diabetes Association.

A separate study by Pew Stateline found that Mississippi, which has the highest obesity rate in the country, spends about 3 percent of its annual GDP on diabetes treatment. West Virginia, Delaware, Louisiana and Arkansas round up the top five states with the highest obesity rates in the country, Gallup reported earlier. Unsurprisingly, those states also have among the highest percentage of people with diabetes, according to Pew.

Related: Obesity in Young Kids Drops But Rises in Older Women

“Reducing obesity rates could unlock a bevy of economic and societal benefits,” Gallup’s Justin McCarthy noted. “But despite the issue’s ample media attention - including First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign, obesity rates have not declined.”

Low-income people and minority groups tend to be the most at risk of being obese. The obesity rate among black Americans is at a staggering 35 percent. Young people ages 18 to 29 and high-income Americans earning at least $90,000 a year are the least likely to be obese.

Gallup said about 35 percent of Americans are classified as having a normal weight, while 35.3 percent of adults are considered “overweight.” Underweight Americans make up a very small 2.1 percent of the adult population.

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.