Obese Now Outnumber the Overweight

Trend has important implications for cancer care in the United States.

The headlines that more Americans are now obese shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It’s easy enough to look around the mall or grocery store to confirm that the obese now outnumber overweight people.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and estimate that 67.6 million Americans over the age of 25 are obese and an additional 65.2 million are overweight (according to the US Census, about 170 million people in the United States are 25 or older). The researchers concluded that this new—and frightening—statistic supports the urgent need for government action that could improve US diets and physical activity.

The comments posted in response to the press release are varied, and include the opinion that it is the sedentary manner in which people work in the United States that is to blame. Other commenters note that preventive healthcare care is not provided, nor rewarded, and one commenter suggests that if incentives were offered (eg, reimbursed gym membership if 30 visits are made in a 60-day period), the health of our nation would improve. One person reminded other commenters that healthcare providers are advisers, and not enforcers, of health. Many people wrote that other things are blamed (eg, sedentary workplace, fast food, etc.), when the overweight or obese person is to blame for lack of self-discipline.

This debate is not one that will end soon, and the implications for cancer care are clear. We’ll be treating an increasing number of obese patients—and morbidly obese, I predict—in the coming years, which will be challenging to the healthcare system. The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s webpage on obesity and cancer, available at www.asco.org/practice-research/obesity-and-cancer, is a one-stop source of information that will continue to guide the cancer care of patients as the US population continues to grow—literally.

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