Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Living Large Now Most of Us Are Overweight

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Living Large Now Most of Us Are Overweight

Article excerpt

Extra weight is now the norm.

For the first time, overweight people outnumber ordinary-size ones in the United States, according to the latest government statistics, released Tuesday.

The reasons are not entirely clear. Katherine Flegal of the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Md., who outlined the data, said many small reductions in physical activity might be to blame. She noted the development of the TV remote control, which keeps people planted on the couch all evening, and fear of crime, which gives them another reason to stay inside. Dr. Albert J. Stunkard of the University of Pennsylvania has a different point of view. "It's just eating too much," he contended. "Physical activity hasn't increased enough to make up for it." Whatever the reason, the latest government figures show just how heavy the country has gotten. Federal guidelines suggest that people should keep their body mass indexes under 25. Anything more than that is too much. Body mass index is quickly becoming the standard way of talking about obesity, since it is an easy way to compare the fatness of people of different heights. (See box for how to calculate the index.) The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted on 30,000 people between 1991 and 1994, shows that 59 percent of American men and 49 percent of women have indexes of more than 25. Ten years earlier, 51 percent of men and 41 percent of women were this heavy. Flegal presented the figures at a meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. Dr. Tim Byers of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center said, "It's been clear for several years that Americans are getting fatter, and it's accelerating. That's troubling." People in their 50s are the heftiest. The survey found that 73 percent of men and 64 percent of women this age have body mass indexes of more than 25. …

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