Health Notes: Obesity curve topped out?

Despite scary reports about how fat we are getting, there could be a glimmer of light ahead, at least among women. Or so reported a recent government study. Granted, it ain't cause yet to stand up and shout, "Hallelujah," but the rate of obesity among women, which has risen continuously and even dramatically since 1999, has for the first time held steady.
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Despite scary reports about how fat we are getting, there could be a glimmer of light ahead, at least among women. Or so reported a recent government study.

Granted, it ain't cause yet to stand up and shout, "Hallelujah," but the rate of obesity among women, which has risen continuously and even dramatically since 1999, has for the first time held steady.

See? No woo-hoo yet, but it is a sign of hope for the future.

"These prevalence estimates, based on a 6-year period (from 1999-2004), suggest that the increases in body weight may be leveling off in women," the authors wrote in the article.
"There is little indication that the prevalence is decreasing in any subgroup of the population."

Among men and children, the percentage that is overweight actually went up significantly during the same six-year period. Oops, ok, not such good news. To get these results and the others, government researchers took height and weight measurements from nearly 4,000 children and adolescents and about 4,400 adults as part of the regular National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that tracks data and trends nationally. Current data was compared with those from 1999-2000 and 2001-2002.

In case you've forgotten how steep the curve upward is:

1. In 1999, 14 percent of male children and adolescents were overweight, while 13.8 percent of females were. In 2003-2004, 18.2 percent of males were and 16 percent of females.
2. Among adult men, 27.5 percent were obese in 1999, compared to 31.1 percent in the latest survey.
3. For women, the figure is about the same, or about 33.2 percent.

Researcher Cynthia Ogden, of the National Center for Health Statistics, told the Washington Post, "There's good news and bad news. We're definitely nowhere near being out of the woods."

The optimism stems from the fact that researchers and trend-watchers know that women historically are early adopters of health and lifestyle behaviors. They can then pass on these behaviors to their children, which could be what the next step now would be.

So what? In the industry, we worry a lot about the future of the country's health. Knowing there is some positive sign, jump in with both feet and grasp this thread of hope and swing hard across the river. It's not time to give up the battle, but in fact it's time to yell louder, especially since there was no decrease, let alone a leveling off, in other groups, including children. Of course, now is a key time not to forget the women among your consumers since they could help influence not only their families, but also future generations.

For the scientifically minded: Non-subscribers can access journals of the American Medical Association at http://jama.ama-assn.org, and can click here for an abstract specifically of this report. Full articles are only available for a fee. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Vol. 295, Issue 13, Pages 1549-1555, April 2006.

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