Prevalence of Obesity and Trends in the Distribution of Body Mass Index Among US Adults, 1999-2010

Study Questions:

What are the current estimates for obesity prevalence among adults residing in the United States?


This was a cross-sectional analysis of a representative sample of adults residing in the United States from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009-2010. Height and weight were measured in a standardized manner and compared to data from men and women included in the NHANES 1999-2008 data. The primary outcomes of interest were prevalence of obesity and mean body mass index (BMI).


A total of 5,926 men and women were included in the 2009-2010 cohort, which was compared to 22,847 men and women in the 1999-2008 NHANES cohorts. In 2009-2010, the age-adjusted mean BMI was 28.7 (95% confidence interval [CI], 28.3-29.1) for men and 28.7 (95% CI, 28.4-29.0) for women. Median BMI was 27.8 (interquartile range [IQR], 24.7-31.7) for men and 27.3 (IQR, 23.3-32.7) for women. The age-adjusted prevalence of obesity was 35.5% (95% CI, 31.9%-39.2%) among adult men and 35.8% (95% CI, 34.0%-37.7%) among adult women. Over the 12-year period from 1999 through 2010, obesity showed no significant increase among women overall (age- and race-adjusted annual change in odds ratio [AOR], 1.01; 95% CI, 1.00-1.03; p = 0.07), but increases were statistically significant for non-Hispanic black women (p = 0.04) and Mexican American women (p = 0.046). For men, there was a significant linear trend (AOR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.02-1.06; p < 0.001) over the 12-year period. For both men and women, the most recent 2 years (2009-2010) did not differ significantly (p = 0.08 for men or p = 0.24 for women) from the previous 6 years (2003-2008). Trends in BMI were similar to obesity trends.


The authors concluded that in 2009-2010, the prevalence of obesity in US adults was 35.5% for men and 35.8% for women, with no significant changes compared to data from 2003 to 2008.


As with the NHANES data from children, these data are encouraging in that no increases were observed in the prevalence of obesity among adults. However, specific subgroups did demonstrate increases in rates of obesity including black and Mexican American women, suggesting that targeted prevention interventions are warranted.

Keywords: Odds Ratio, Body Mass Index, Mexican Americans, Cross-Sectional Studies, Body Weight, Obesity, Confidence Intervals, Nutrition Surveys, United States

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