In 2001, the US Surgeon General called for action to reduce obesity rates to 15 percent by 2010. But by 2009 no state had reached this objective.
The CDC’s latest report found that self-reported obesity rates were up by 1.1 percent in 2009 – or 2.4m individuals – on 2007 levels, translating to a total of 72.5m obese US residents, or 26.7 percent of the population. The agency used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, based on telephone interviews with 400,000 adults across the United States.
The findings are potentially important for the food and beverage industry, which is under increasing pressure to tackle obesity. The industry has tended to take a dual approach, focusing efforts not only on reformulating its products to reduce levels of saturated fat, added sugars and sodium, but also by encouraging physical activity.
However, the CDC noted that respondents may have a tendency to underestimate their weight when it is self-reported, which could explain a discrepancy between these latest results and those from its earlier research reported in January this year, based on actual measurements of height and weight of 5,555 adults, which found that 33.8 percent were obese.
"Obesity continues to be a major public health problem," said CDC director Thomas Frieden. "We need intensive, comprehensive and ongoing efforts to address obesity. If we don't more people will get sick and die from obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of death."
In this latest CDC Vital Signs report, the reported obesity rate was highest in Mississippi, at 34.4 percent, and lowest in Colorado at 18.6 percent. But it found that the number of states topping 30 percent obesity has tripled in just two years, to a total of nine.
Director of CDC's division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Dr. William Dietz said: "Obesity is a complex problem that requires both personal and community action. People in all communities should be able to make healthy choices, but in order to make those choices there must be healthy choices to make. We need to change our communities into places where healthy eating and active living are the easiest path."
Only Colorado and the District of Columbia (at 19.7 percent) had prevalence under 20 percent.