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Published October 2018

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  • Obesity is a chronic, progressive disease medically defined as a body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight, of 30 kg/m or more.
  • Nearly 40% of U.S. adults have obesity, the highest incidence ever recorded.
  • Obesity is linked to more than 40 diseases including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and at least 13 different types of cancer.
  • Severe obesity (BMI of 40 or more) affects nearly 8% of adults aged 20 and older7 and is associated with a 50-100% increased risk of premature death.
  • Bariatric surgery, also known as weight-loss surgery or metabolic surgery, is the standard of care for treating severe obesity.
  • ASMBS estimates less than 1% of the 24 million U.S. adults who may qualify for a bariatric surgery have the procedure each year.

Prevalence – A Growing Epidemic

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (39.8%) of U.S. adults – 93.3 million people – have obesity (2015-2016).
    • Prevalence among adults aged 40-59 is higher than among adults aged 20-39 (42.8% vs. 35.7%)
    • Adults aged 60 and older experience obesity at a slightly higher rate than those under 60 (41% vs.39.3%)
    • Rates of obesity are similar among men and women, both overall and within individual age groups.
    • Non-Hispanic whites have lower rates of obesity (37.9%) compared with all Hispanics (47.0%) and non-Hispanic blacks (46.8%).
  • No state has a prevalence of obesity less than 20% — 22 states have a prevalence between 25-30% and 25 states have a prevalence greater than 30% (CDC, 2016).

Causes of Obesity

  • Obesity is no longer considered a lifestyle choice or simply the result of a lack of will power. The American Medical Association (A.M.A.), World Health Organization (W.H.O.), along with many medical societies now recognize obesity as a chronic progressive disease resulting from multiple environmental and strong genetic factors.
    • Due to its progressive nature, obesity requires life-long treatment and control
  • Factors contributing to obesity include genetics, metabolism, behavior, environment and economic status.
    • Chronic low-level inflammation associated with excess weight contributes to disruption of lipid and glucose metabolism, the consequences of which include hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
    • Behavioral factors can include dietary patterns, physical inactivity and medication use.
    • Community culture, education, and food marketing are among environmental factors.

Health Risks – BMI of 30 is a Turning Point for Increased Disease

  • Obesity is the fifth leading risk of death around the world and is attributed to 5% of all preventable global deaths each year.
    • BMI of 40 or more is associated with a 50-100% increased risk of premature death compared to healthy weight individuals.
    • Obesity reduces life expectancy by nine years for women and by 12 years for men.
  • Obesity is associated with more than 40 diseases and causes of death including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, infertility, liver disease and high blood pressure.
  • Obesity-related cancers account for 40% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. (CDC, 2014).
    • Rates of 12 out of 13 obesity-related cancers increased by 7% from 2005 to 2014 while cancers not associated with overweight and obesity fell by 13%.

Economics of Obesity

  • According to CDC, the medical costs of obesity in the U.S. are estimated to be $147 billion.
    • Research suggest that the percentage of U.S. health spending on treatment of obesity-related illnesses in adults climbed 29% between 2001 and 2015.
  • Obesity costs the global economy about $2 trillion annually or 2.8% of global GDP, which is comparable to the costs of smoking or of armed violence, war, and terrorism combined.
  • Individuals with obesity have 42% higher healthcare costs than people of normal weight; for people with severe obesity, healthcare costs are 81% higher.
    • Each 1-point increase in BMI leads to a 4% increase in medical costs and a 7% increase in pharmaceutical costs.

Body Mass Index

Normal Weight Overweight Class I Obesity Class II Obesity Class III Obesity
BMI 18.9-24.9 BMI 25-29.9 BMI 30-34.9 BMI 35-39.9 BMI 40 or higher
Obesity Severe Obesity


View the attached PDF for a full list of References.

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