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2-decade US forecast shows no end in sight for obesity epidemic

WASHINGTON--More bad news about Americans' waistlines: The obesity epidemic may be slowing, but the number of obese adults is likely to keep going up.

Today, just over a third of U.S. adults are obese. By 2030, 42 percent will be, says a forecast released Monday.

That's not nearly as many as experts had predicted before the once-rapid rises in obesity rates began leveling off. But the new forecast suggests even small continuing increases will add up.

“We still have a very serious problem,” said obesity specialist Dr. William Dietz of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Worse, the already obese are getting fatter. Severe obesity will double by 2030, when 11 percent of adults will be nearly 100 pounds (45 kilograms) overweight, or more, concluded the research led by Duke University.

That could be an ominous consequence of childhood obesity. Half of severely obese adults were obese as children, and they put on more pounds as they grew up, said CDC's Dietz.

While being overweight increases anyone's risk of diabetes, heart disease and a host of other ailments, the severely obese are most at risk — and the most expensive to treat. Already, conservative estimates suggest obesity-related problems account for at least 9 percent of the nation's yearly health spending, or US$150 billion a year.

Data presented Monday at a major CDC meeting paint something of a mixed picture of the obesity battle. There's some progress: Clearly, the skyrocketing rises in obesity rates of the 1980s and '90s have ended. But Americans aren't getting thinner.

Over the past decade, obesity rates stayed about the same in women, while men experienced a small rise, said CDC's Cynthia Ogden. That increase occurred mostly in higher-income men, for reasons researchers couldn't explain.

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