More than half of adult Americans are overweight or obese, and public health recommendations call for weight loss in those who are overweight with associated medical conditions or who are obese. However, some controversy exists in the lay press and in the medical literature about the health risks of obesity. We review briefly the large body of evidence indicating that higher levels of body weight and body fat are associated with an increased risk for the development of numerous adverse health consequences. Efforts to prevent further weight gain in adults at risk for overweight and obesity are essential. For those whose present or future health is at risk because of their obesity and who are motivated to make lifestyle changes, a recommendation for weight loss is appropriate.
Change in the age-adjusted prevalence of overweight and obesity in men (top) and women (bottom) aged 20 to 74 years from 1960-1994. BMI indicates body mass index. Adapted from National Institutes of Health.13
Weighted prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus according to body mass index (BMI) in adults aged 20 years or older. From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. (Data from Maureen Harris, PhD, written communication, March 1, 1999.)
Age-adjusted prevalence of hypertension (mean systolic blood pressure >140 mm Hg, mean diastolic blood pressure >90 mm Hg, or currently using antihypertensive medication) by body mass index (BMI) and sex. From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. Adapted from National Institutes of Health.13
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