Obesity Facts
Obesity Facts

96 Interesting Obesity Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 17, 2017
  • Over 300,000 deaths in the U.S. a year are attributed to obesity. Obesity is second only to smoking as a cause of premature death in the United States.[13]
  • Obesity is known to be a major risk factor for breast cancer in postmenopausal women. It also may determine the rate of breast cancer cell growth and tumor size.[13]
  • Even fat-free food can be rich in sugar. In many cases, manufacturers will replace fat calories with sugar calories so the food remains desirable to the palate.[9]
  • Obesity can strain muscles in the pelvic area, which can weaken muscles, contributing to vaginal prolapse.[13]
  • Child safety seat manufacturers have begun to make bigger models after a recent study showed that over 250,000 U.S. children age 6 and under are too fat to use the standard models.[27]
  • According to an online survey by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, nearly half of the 4,000 people surveyed reported that they would give up a year of their life rather than be fat.[27]
  • In 2000, airlines spent $275 million on 350 million additional gallons of fuel to compensate for the additional weight of their passengers.[27]
  • Interesting Obesity Fact
    An average American eats over 100 lbs. of sugar per year
  • One hundred years ago, the average person ate less than 10 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average person in the U.S. eats over 100 pounds per year. Currently, sugar intake represents 50% of a person’s carbohydrate intake for the day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 10% of a person’s diet should come from sugar.[9]
  • As of 2006, there were more people in the world who are overweight than malnourished.[13]
  • At least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Although once associated with high-income countries, obesity is also becoming prevalent in low- and middle-income countries.[1]
  • Obesity can cause a condition called “buried penis,” in which a penis of normal length is buried below the surface of the pubic skin or within its own excessive shaft skin. This condition can cause other problems, including chronic infections, skin breakdown, and chronic inflammation.[13]
  • Globally, over 40 million preschool children were overweight in 2007.[1]
  • Obesity and overweight issues are linked to more deaths around the world than underweight issues.[1]
  • People with less than a high school degree have the highest obesity rates (32.9%). High school graduates (29.5%) have about the same obesity rates as college dropouts (29.1%). College graduates have the lowest obesity rate at 20.8%.[2]
  • Obesity can be a side effect of certain disorders, such as Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, neurological disturbances (damage to the hypothalamus), or drugs (steroids, antipsychotic medications, or antidepressants).[5]
  • Obesity is the abnormal accumulation of body fat, usually 20% or more over an individual’s ideal body weight. Obesity is associated with increased risk of illness, disability, and death.[5]
  • Obesity affects every aspect of a people's lives, from health to relationships.

    - Jane Velez-Mitchell

  • Older mothers lend more chance of obesity to their children than young mothers.[13]
  • Endocannabinoids, the chemical that triggers the “munchies,” is akin to the active chemical cannabinoids in marijuana. There are endocannabinoid (EC) receptors all over the body, including the brain, gastrointestinal tract, and fat cells. An overactive EC system can lead to obesity.[11]
  • To stop mindless eating, experts recommend eating foods low in calories and high in fiber and water, using smaller plates and serving utensils, being aware of the “clean plate mentality,” avoiding all-you-can-eat restaurants and buffets, and not doing other activities while eating, such as watching T.V.[5]
  • “Thrifty” genes, or genes that helped convert excess calories into fat that provided energy during lean times in the past, are now contributing to obesity. Approximately 90% of those of African descent have “thrifty” genes, around 50% of Asians have them, and about 20–35% of Europeans have them.[13]
  • On average, patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery keep off at least 50–60% of excess weight over 5–15 years.[13]
  • If a child’s parents are overweight or obese, a child has an 80% chance of becoming overweight as well.[13]
  • Pollution can be a cause of obesity. Pollution affects our hormones, which control our weight.[13]
  • Obesity is linked to at least 15 medical conditions, including osteoarthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, joint-related pain, strokes, and impaired immune response.[13]
  • The U.S. economy loses an estimated $270 billion annually in health care costs and loss of productivity associated with obesity and overweight workers. Obesity also resulted in 39 million lost workdays.[13]
  • Sad Obesity Facts
    Obese men and women reported being significantly less sexually satisfied than the general population
  • Obese men and women reported being significantly less sexually satisfied than the general population.[27]
  • A study by Northwestern University found that adults who frequently attended religious activities were significantly more likely to become obese than those who didn’t.[12]
  • Roughly half of all U.S. advertising directed at children and teens is for food.[13]
  • Nearly 4 million Americans weigh more than 300 pounds.[13]
  • Approximately 11% of adult Americans of Asian descent are considered obese compared to the nation’s average, which is 35%. However, diseases associated with obesity can start at lower BMIs for them.[4]
  • Foods rich in fat and sugar can supercharge the brain’s reward system, which can overpower the brain’s ability to tell an individual to stop eating. The drug rimonabant, which reduces cravings in tobacco users, can also reduce the desire for food, but it has dangerous side effects.[11]
  • The study of obesity is known as bariatrics, from the Greek root bar- or “weight” (as in barometer), -iatr or “treatment” (as in pediatrics), and -ic or“pertaining to.” The term was created around 1965. As obesity has become a major health problem in the United States, bariatrics has become a separate medical and surgical specialty.[13]
  • After Barbara Hewson from Wales was squashed by an obese person next to her on a transatlantic flight, she suffered a blood clot in her chest, torn leg muscles, and acute sciatica and was bedridden for a month. Virgin Atlantic awarded her the equivalent of US $24,100 as compensation.[27]
  • According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, of the 7.5 million U.S. veterans who receive their health benefits from the agency, more than 70% are overweight and 20% have diabetes.[27]
  • One way to combat obesity is to eat slowly. It takes the brain 20 minutes to sense that a person is full.[5]
  • Random Obesity Facts
    It takes the brain 20 minutes to sense that a person is ful

  • Women with post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to be overweight or obese than women without the condition. One in nine women will have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in her life, which is twice as often as men.[24]
  • In 2013, Mexico overtook the United States as the most obese nation. Overall, 32.8% of Mexican adults are obese, compared to 31.8% of American adults.[14]
  • Someone who was obese as a child can have a harder time losing weight later in life since they may have up to five times as many fat cells as someone who became overweight as an adult.[13]
  • One in three U.S. children and teens are overweight or obese.[13]
  • The rates of obesity in America’s children and youth have almost tripled in the last quarter century, and children are the fastest growing segment of the obese population in the U.S. Today’s children consume multiple types of media and spend more time in front of computers, TV, and game screens than any other activity in their lives except sleeping.[13]
  • Childhood obesity affects self-esteem, which can affect employment and higher education later in life. In addition to a social stigma, childhood obesity has serious health consequences.[13]
  • Due to childhood obesity, depression, diabetes, asthma, gallstones, orthopedic diseases, and other obesity-related conditions are all on the rise in children.[13]
  • Interesting Puberty Fact
    Obesity has been linked to an earlier onset of puberty
  • At what stage of life a person becomes obese can affect this or her ability to lose weight. In childhood and puberty, excess calories are converted into new fat cells (hyperplastic obesity), while excess calories consumed in adulthood only serve to expand existing fat cells (hypertrophic obesity).[13]
  • Approximately 30–50% of children born in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes mellitus, a leading cause of preventable blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and amputations.[13]
  • Full-time homemakers who never worked outside the home are more likely to become obese than women who are married, had kids, and worked outside the home. They were also more likely to report poor health. Researchers believe the lifestyle of the homemaker leads to the risk of obesity and poor health.[25]
  • Children with working mothers have a greater risk of becoming obese, even if they have a full-time stay-at-home father.[31]
  • If there were 100 adults in a room together, 67 of them would be overweight or obese.[13]
  • French fried potatoes are the most often eaten vegetable in America.[9]
  • In November 2004, the fast food chain Hardee’s introduced the Monster Thickburger. It has 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat. Fries and soda would add 900 more calories—making it a 2,000 calorie meal, more than the number of calories nutritionists recommend for an entire day for an adult. Food proportion sizes have consistently increased since the late 1970s.[9]
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than half of the adult population in the U.S. is either overweight or obese. More than one third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.[30]
  • In 1972, Americans spent $3 billion on fast food. In 2003, they spent $110 billion.[9]
  • Approximately 40% of all meals eaten each day in the US. are eaten outside of the home.[9]
  • Americans eat 300–400% more fat than they should.[13]
  • Globally, more than 1.4 billion adults were overweight in 2008. More than half a billion were obese. The World Health Organization estimates 2.3 billion adults will be overweight by 2015 and has declared obesity a worldwide epidemic.[1]
  • Important Obesity Fact
    Obesity is a global epidemic

  • Aborigines and the Pima Indians of Arizona developed obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension after transitioning to a Western diet.[27]
  • If all the morbidly obese people in the U.S. lived in one state, it would have the 12th highest population in the country, with a population greater than that of Virginia.[27]
  • The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008. The medical costs for obese people were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.[2]
  • Women with college degrees are less likely to be obese compared with less educated women. However, there is no significant relationship between education and obesity among men.[16]
  • Severe obesity is defined as a body-mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater, or 220 pounds or more.[13]
  • Obesity is becoming the number one cause of liver cirrhosis and liver failure in kids.[13]
  • Obese children quadruple their risk and overweight children double their risk of developing high blood pressure in adulthood.[3]
  • Obesity is typically caused by several factors, including excess food consumption, lack of exercise, and genetics.[13]
  • Even “metabolically healthy” obese people are at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease.[20]
  • Childhood trauma has been associated with a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese for both boys as for girls. The risk was even higher for kids whose mothers were obese, because obese parents may contribute to family health problems, which lead to traumatic life events.[10]
  • Interesting Diet
    Educated women are less likely to be obese
  • Higher-income women are less likely to be obese than low-income women.[16]
  • Women who are obese as they near retirement age are more likely to become disabled in their remaining years, with their risk of disability rising with their level of obesity. Nearly one third of U.S. women 75 years and older are obese.[29]
  • Obesity is an inflammatory disease. In other words, excess calories cause an immune response, which constantly activates a person’s immune system at a low level, contributing to widespread inflammation in the body.[13]
  • Obesity is strongly related to osteoarthritis and knee osteoarthritis. More than 50 million Americans have arthritis, and almost half of them can’t perform normal daily activities because of the disease. Rising rates of obesity among people younger than 65 may be the main reason for the rapidly increasing number of knee replacements in the U.S.[22]
  • Despite some past research suggesting a link between C-sections and obesity, more recent research argues that babies born by cesarean deliveries are no more likely to be obese in life than babies born vaginally.[26]
  • Obese teens and young adults may be more receptive to TV fast food ads than those who aren’t obese. Experts aren’t sure what comes first, being receptive to TV fast food ads or obesity.[21]
  • Most epinephrine needles are not long enough to be effective on obese people. Epinephrine works best when injected into the muscle. When it is injected into the fat layer of the skin, it takes longer to reach the bloodstream.[7]
  • Middle-aged adults have higher rates of obesity (39.5%) than younger (30.3%) and older (35.4%) adults.[2]
  • Overall, men and women have similar rates of obesity. However, 56.6% of black women were obese compared with 37.1% of black men.[2]
  • Blacks have the highest obesity rates (47.8%), followed by Hispanics (42.5%) and whites (32.6%). Asians have the lowest obesity rates (10.8%).[4]
  • According to the American Diabetic Association, the current means for battling obesity—such as dieting, bariatric (weight-loss) surgery, exercise—have not been able to overcome the widespread availability of low-cost, high-calorie food.[2]
  • Research shows that genes do affect a person’s risk of becoming overweight. One gene in particular, the FTO gene, has the greatest effect.[17]
  • Obesity is linked to not only pancreatic cancer but also to lower survival rates of that cancer.[13]
  • Many nutritionists point to high fructose corn syrup as a major culprit in the nation’s obesity crisis. The inexpensive sweetener flooded the American food supply in the early 1980s, about the same time that the nation’s obesity rate began to skyrocket.[9]
  • Interesting High Fructose Sugar Fact
    The average American eats 60 lbs. of HFCS per year

  • Research suggests that a “gut germ” transplant may help obese people shed pounds. In other words, obese people may benefit from a thinner person’s gut germs because thinner people’s intestinal bacteria digest food differently than obese people’s do. The gut, where the body processes food, is crucial to weight gain and weight loss.[6]
  • Girls are developing breasts at younger and younger ages. Researchers point to increasing rates of obesity as a major cause. Specifically, African American girls start getting breasts at 8 years 10 months on average, compared to 9 years 4 months for Hispanic girls and 9 years 8 months among white and Asian girls.[19]
  • Obese children and teens who lose weight are in danger of developing eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. These problems may go undiagnosed or disregarded because parents and doctors think, “It’s a good thing these teens have lost so much weight.”[23]
  • Obese people tend to be less sexually active, but when they are sexually engaged, they are more likely to practice unsafe behaviors.[13]
  • Even small changes in household routines can reduce obesity risk in kids, such as restricting TV time and increasing sleep time.[13]
  • Unplanned pregnancies are four times higher among single obese women than normal-weight women, even though obese women were 30% less likely to have had a sexual partner in the past year.[13]
  • Obese women are 70% less likely to use birth control pills and eight times more likely to use less-effective methods, such as withdrawal. Obese women were also less likely to obtain advice about contraceptives.[13]
  • Obese women are five times more likely to have met a sexual partner on the Internet and to have an obese partner.[13]
  • Obese men are 2½ times more likely to struggle with erectile dysfunction.[13]
  • Obese men aged 30–49 are less likely to use a condom.[13]
  • There are online dating sites for obese and overweight singles, such as ObeseDating.com. However, these website have been criticized for encouraging obesity.[28]
  • Accordingly to a U.S. survey, children born to obese women are more likely to be diagnosed with autism or related developmental delays. However, researchers note that they are far from understanding what might create a link between obesity and autism.[15]
  • Crazy Obesity Fact
    The average American eats an amount of fat equivalent to one whole stick of butter each day
  • The average American eats an amount of fat equivalent to one whole stick of butter each day.[13]
  • Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in the country at 34.9%. Colorado is the thinnest state in the nation with a 20.7% obesity rate.[8]
  • Obese people, especially women, are less successful than their slimmer peers. Additionally, larger girls are less likely to go to college, regardless of how well they did in high school. Weight was not nearly as big a factor in the career trajectories of men.[16]
  • There are enough calories in 217 Big Macs to drive a small car for 88 miles. There are enough calories in 1 piece of cheesecake to light a 60-watt bulb for 1½ hours.[9]
  • Drinking a 12 oz. can of soda is akin to eating 14 teaspoons of sugar. Drinking one can of soda a day can cause a person to gain 15 pounds in one year.[9]
  • Obesity has been linked to semi-frequent and episodic migraines.[18]

  • Timeline[13][31]
    1577-1640Artist Peter Rubens paints plump female figures, marking the high social status of those who could eat well.
    1902The Automat opens in Philadelphia, which is the first fast food restaurant in the U.S. The idea spreads to New York City in 1912 and then throughout the country. The restaurants operate into the 1970s.
    1963Jean Nidetch founds Weight Watchers. It now has 46,000 employees and operates in 30 countries.
    1966Dr. Edward E. Mason of the University of Iowa develops gastric bypass surgery as a weight-reduction procedure after studying patients with other types of stomach surgery.
    1974Dr. Edward E. Mason of the University of Iowa develops gastric bypass surgery as a weight-reduction procedure after studying patients with other types of stomach surgery.
    1994Scientists isolate the hormone leptin that regulates hunger and internal weight control.
    1995Richard L. Atkinson, MD, and Judith S. Stern ScD, RD, create the American Obesity Association to provide research and education about obesity as a disease. It opens its headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 1997.
    2002Trial lawyer Samuel Hirsch files several lawsuits against McDonald’s on behalf of obese clients on July 24. The first client is a 56-year-old man who weighs 272 pounds. Other clients are obese children.
    2006Overweight people outnumber malnourished people worldwide. About 1 billion are overweight, compared to 800 million who are hungry. Obesity rates rise in 31 states.

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