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Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1998 Jan;22(1):39-47.

Overweight and obesity in the United States: prevalence and trends, 1960-1994.

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National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville MD 20782, USA.



To describe the prevalence of, and trends in, overweight and obesity in the US population using standardized international definitions.


Successive cross-sectional nationally representative surveys, including the National Health Examination Survey (NHES I; 1960-62) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES I: 1971-1974; NHANES II: 1976-1980; NHANES III: 1988-94). Body mass index (BMI:kg/m2) was calculated from measured weight and height. Overweight and obesity were defined as follows: Overweight (BMI > or = 25.0); pre-obese (BMI 25.0-29.9), class I obesity (BMI 30.0-34.9), class II obesity (BMI 35.0-39.9), and class III obesity (BMI > or = 40.0).


For men and women aged 20-74 y, the age-adjusted prevalence of BMI 25.0-29.9 showed little or no increase over time (NHES I: 30.5%, NHANES I: 32.0%, NHANES II: 31.5% and NHANES III: 32.0%) but the prevalence of obesity (BMI > or = 30.0) showed a large increase between NHANES II and NHANES III (NHES I: 12.8%; NHANES I, 14.1%; NHANES II, 14.5% and NHANES III, 22.5%). Trends were generally similar for all age, gender and race-ethnic groups. The crude prevalence of overweight and obesity (BMI >> 25.0) for age > or = 20 y was 59.4% for men, 50.7% for women and 54.9% overall. The prevalence of class III obesity (BMI > or = 40.0) exceeded 10% for non-Hispanic black women aged 40-59 y.


Between 1976-80 and 1988-94, the prevalence of obesity (BMI > or= 30.0) increased markedly in the US. These findings are in agreement with trends seen elsewhere in the world. Use of standardized definitions facilitates international comparisons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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