The prevalence of obesity for African Americans is 51 percent higher than for white Americans, according to new findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Furthermore, the prevalence of obesity amongst the nation’s Hispanic American population was 21 percent higher than their white compatriots, says the
The report, in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is potentially important for the food and beverage industry, as it has come under increasing pressure to play a role in tackling obesity.
Much of the industry is involved in taking a dual approach, focusing efforts not only on product reformulation to reduce trans fats, saturated fats and sugar, but also on encouraging increased physical activity.
"This study highlights that in the United States, blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately affected by obesity,'' said Dr William Dietz, director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity.
"If we have any hope of stemming the rise in obesity, we must intensify our efforts to create an environment for healthy living in these communities."
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said that it aims to reduce obesity rates to 15 percent in every state before 2010, but the trend is going the other way: In 1991, no state had an obesity rate of over 20 percent – now only one state, Colorado, has a rate below 20 percent, at 18.9 percent. In 1980, the average US obesity rate was 15 percent; now the average is 34.3 percent, and another 32.7 percent are overweight.
Indeed, the new CDC report supported the geographical differences in obesity levels. For African Americans, the highest levels of obesity were observed in the South and Midwest, compared to the West and Northeast. Similarly, the highest rates for Hispanics were found in the Midwest, South or West.
Nationally, the prevalence of obesity for African Americans ranged from 23 percent to 45.1 percent, while the prevalence among Hispanics ranged from 21 percent to 36.7 percent. For whites, however, the range of obesity prevalence was from 9 percent to 30.2 percent.
"We know that racial and ethnic differences in obesity prevalence are likely due to both individual behaviors, as well as differences in the physical and social environment,'' said Dr Liping Pan, the report’s lead author.
"We need a combination of policy and environmental changes that can create opportunities for healthier living."