America’s obesity problem increased 40% in 20 years

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More than half of Americans studied gained 5% or more of body weight over a 10-year period

A BYU study looking at the long-term weight gain of more than 13,000 adults found troubling results.

More than half of American adults studied gained 5% or more body weight over a 10-year period, with more than a third gaining 10% or more, and almost a fifth gaining 20% or more.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of Obesity.

Study participants were selected randomly as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an annual survey that examines a nationally representative sample. NHANES is a CDC-sponsored series of studies that began in the early 1960s and became a continuous program in 1999.

The study found that 10-year weight gain was significantly greater in women than in men, with women gaining about twice as much weight: 12 pounds on average for women compared to 6 pounds for men. Weight gain also differed across races, with Black women experiencing the greatest average weight gain over the 10-year period (19.4 pounds) and Asian men experiencing the least (2.9 pounds).


The greatest weight gains occur in young and middle-aged adults, with less weight gained as age increases. On average, Americans gain the following weight:

  • 17.6 pounds between their 20s and 30s
  • 14.3 pounds between their 30s and 40s
  • 9.5 pounds between their 40s and 50s
  • 4.6 pounds between their 50s and 60s

This means that If adults gain the average amount of weight during each decade of adult life, they will have gained more than 45 pounds, pushing many of them into the obese category. According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC, 42.4% of U.S. adults are currently obese. That’s up substantially from the 30.5% measured in 2000.

According to the researchers, in roughly 20 years, the prevalence of obesity increased by approximately 40% and severe obesity almost doubled. They hope that by knowing who is more likely to become obese, health care providers and public health officials can focus more on at-risk individuals.