Half of All American Adults Could Be Obese in 10 Years, Study Finds
One of America's already widespread health issues is projected to worsen over the next decade, as new research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that almost half the adult population in the U.S. will be obese by 2030.
Obesity poses a number of issues for public health, as it increases risk for heart disease, diabetes and several cancers, among others, the Associated Press reported, and has driven up healthcare costs 29 percent since 2001, according to a Cornell University study in 2018.
According to a study of more than 6 million Americans published in the New England Journal of Medicine, obesity rates will increase to at least 35 percent in every state and 49 percent of the entire adult population will have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30 by the end of the decade. That's compared to 2015-2016 estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that 40 percent of American adults were obese.
For the study, the researchers used self-reported BMI data from 6.27 million Americans who participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey between 1993 and 2016.
BMI is a widely accepted measure of health because it considers one's weight relative to height, but Ward told NBC News that people often overestimate their height and underestimate how much they weigh. To account for this, the researchers compared the responses with height and weight data from a separate survey that relied on actual measurements taken by professionals, Newsweek reported.
Some parts of the country will be affected more than others, the researchers found. In 29 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, researchers projected that more than 50 percent of the population will be obese, CNN reported.
Worse still, nearly one quarter of adults will be more than 100 pounds overweight with a BMI over 35, which is the threshold for "severe obesity." Women, African Americans and Americans with low income status will be most at risk of becoming severely obese, the study found.
"That used to be pretty rare," lead author Zachary Ward, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, told NBC News. "But we're finding that it's quickly becoming the most common BMI category in those subgroups."
It may seem counterintuitive that low-income adults who are less able to afford food tend to weigh more. But according to CNN, there has been an influx of sugary drinks and processed foods into the American diet, and the price of these unhealthy foods has decreased over time.
Global data supports these findings, as a new report published in The Lancet by the World Health Organization found that one third of the world's poorest countries have high levels of both obesity and malnourishment. Experts behind the report pointed to easier access to unhealthy processed foods, poor diets that lead to underdevelopment and people exercising less as drivers, BBC News reported.
Ward and the authors of the Harvard study believe their findings should be a wakeup call to health policymakers and drive conversation around limiting how unhealthy foods are advertised, nutrition standards and creating taxes on sugary drink — interventions the researchers have previously found to be effective.
"What is clear is that we will not be able to treat our way out of this epidemic — achieving and maintaining weight loss is difficult — so prevention efforts will be key to making progress in this area," Ward told Newsweek.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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