Obesity in America

- October 7, 2022
Can the increase in its prevalence be reversed?
Photo of Liz Knight, “Biggest Loser” reality TV competition, on March 1, 2013. (Getty Images/PA Images/Andrew Matthews)
Nearly 42 percent of U.S. adults have obesity, up significantly in the past 20 years. One-fifth of American children are also living with the disease. The number of states where at least 35 percent of residents have obesity has nearly doubled since 2018, from nine to 16.

Experts say America's growing obesity problem is due, in part, to a sedentary lifestyle and easy access to heavily marketed high-calorie, high-fat foods. Others blame food deserts and heredity. What do you think are the biggest causes?

Despite millions of dollars spent over the years to fight obesity, the problem continues to grow. At a recent White House conference, companies, nonprofits and local governments vowed to spend $8 billion to improve access to and affordability of healthy foods, integrate nutrition into health care, support fitness and physical activity and expand nutrition research. Do you think these things will help? Which ones, in particular?

1800s–1960sAs obesity raises concerns, doctors try drugs and surgery to treat patients.
1970s–1990sGlobal obesity epidemic is declared.
2000–PresentScientists discover DNA mutations that contribute to obesity; local governments push to regulate diet and nutrition.

Are highly processed foods addictive?


Nicole M. Avena and Mark S. Gold
Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Visiting Professor of Psychology, Princeton University; and Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, Washington University in St Louis.


Johannes Hebebrand
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.


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