Research reveals who has gained weight in the U.S. over the last decade

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A new study has found that the obesity epidemic in the United States is not slowing down and has revealed that more than a third of American adults gained 10 percent or more body weight over the last decade.

The study, published in the Journal of Obesity, was conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The goal of the study was to identify weight gain patterns over 10 years. Spanning 2011 to 2018, researchers investigated 13,802 adults and analyzed whether weight gains were associated with age, sex, and race. Study participants were selected randomly as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an annual survey that examines a nationally representative sample.

Using the NHANES data, researchers found that 10-year weight gain was significantly greater in women than in men, with women gaining about twice as much weight: 12 pounds on average for women compared to six pounds for men. Weight gain also differed across races, with Black women experiencing the greatest average weight gain over the 10-year period (19.4 pounds) and Asian men experiencing the least (2.9 pounds).

In addition, the greatest gains in weight were found in young and middle-aged adults; less weight is gained as age increases. According to the data, on average Americans gained the following weight:

  • 17.6 pounds between their 20s and 30s
  • 14.3 pounds between their 30s and 40s
  • 9.5 pounds between their 40s and 50s
  • 4.6 pounds between their 50s and 60s

According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42.4 percent of U.S. adults are currently obese. This number has increased substantially from the 30.5 percent measured in 2000.

“In roughly 20 years, the prevalence of obesity increased by approximately 40 percent and severe obesity almost doubled,” said study lead author Larry Tucker, PhD, a BYU professor of exercise science in a statement. “By knowing who is more likely to become obese, we can help health care providers and public health officials focus more on at-risk individuals.”