Half of U.S. Adults May Be Obese by 2030

A new report released Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation projects that by 2030 half of U.S. adults will be obese.  The report, titled "F as in Fat," comes on the heels of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study earlier this year that reported that 35.7 percent of U.S. adults are clinically obese.

Clinical obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of above 30, and is more serious that "overweight," which is defined as having a BMI of above 25. In other words, far more than half of Americans will be overweight by 2030, according to the study.

The increasingly serious obesity epidemic offers negative repercussions for healthy Americans too, who will have to help pay for the higher medical costs associated with obesity related diseases like type 2 diabetes. "F as in Fat" projects additional annual health care costs of $66 billion on top of the $147 billion to $210 billion that Americans pay now. A similar report, published earlier this year in the American Journal of Preventive Health, predicts that increased obesity rates will add over half a trillion dollars to healthcare costs from now until 2030.

The U.S. has seen obesity rates rise sharply since 1980, when just 15 percent of U.S. adults were obese. A number of factors, including obvious ones like increased portion size, decreased access to nutritional food products, and less time for exercise, as well as less obvious ones like inadequate sleep, women giving birth at an older age, and demographic changes, have been linked to the rise in obesity among adult Americans.

Fortunately, nearly every factor contributing to the rise in obesity in the U.S. can be mitigated by altering Americans' behavior. "We know a lot more about how to prevent obesity than we did 10 years ago," said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health. "This report outlines how policies like increasing physical activity time in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier. Small changes can add up to a big difference."

Startled by the growing obesity trend, some U.S. corporations have initiated efforts to promote health among Americans.

ING U.S., the U.S.-based retirement, investment and insurance operations of Netherlands-based ING Groep N.V. (NYSE: ING), announced on Tuesday $125,000 in grants to combat childhood obesity. Through the 2012 ING Run For Something Better® School Awards, ING will award 50 schools from 27 states across the U.S. with up to $2,500 in grant money to support school based running programs.

"ING U.S. is committed to supporting education and offering a solution to educators who are dedicated to helping their students get active and reduce childhood obesity," said Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation and head of the ING U.S. Office of Corporate Responsibility.

Likewise, Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI), the restaurant company that operates brands like Red Lobster and Olive Garden, has committed to reducing the overall calorie and sodium footprint of its core menu by 10 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by 2021.

In a recent blog post, Cheryl L. Dolven, Director of Health and Wellness at Darden, revealed that the company uses sophisticated software during the recipe development process so that chefs can calculate the nutritional content of meals as they create them.

Image credit: Tony Alter