US could make big savings by slowing growth in obesity

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Slowing the expected increase in growing obesity rates in the United States can drastically reduce health care costs, according to an analysis presented at a Washington health conference, National Public Radio reports.

According to the evaluation presented at the Weight of the Nation conference in Washington and published in the American Journal for Preventative Medicine,  if obesity in the US were to stay at 2010 levels, the combined savings in medical costs over the next two decades would amount to $549.5 billion.

The study also presented a leveling in the rate of growth of the US overweight population. Currently 33 percent of  Americans are obese and by 2030, 42 percent are expected to be so, below the expected level of 51 percent. Obesity is defined in terms of a body mass index that compares weight to height. Obesity represents a ratio above 25 kg/m2, and severe obesity a ratio greater than 30kg/m2.

The World Health Organization says that worldwide, obesity is on the rise, having more than doubled since 1980, with 1.5 billion people being overweight or obese. It attributes the problem of overweight and obesity to 44 percent of the diabetes burden and to 23 percent of the heart disease burden.