Report Finds Americans Growing Wider, Not Taller

(CN) – American adults are steadily getting heavier but are not growing any taller, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released just days before millions of people gather over Christmas dinners and holiday sweets.

The national health statistics released Thursday by the CDC shows the mean weight, waist circumference and body mass index in both male and female adults have increased linearly over the last two decades in the U.S.

The report shows data collected in two-year periods between 1999 and 2016, but the agency’s less regular sampling information dates back to 1960 when women were, on average, 30 pounds lighter.

The average weight of American men rose from about 189 pounds to 198 pounds since 1999 and the average weight for women during the same timeframe increased from about 164 pounds to 171 pounds.

The mean height of adults over the age of 20 did not change significantly in most demographic subgroups, but height data for all men between the ages of 40 and 59 shows a slight shrinkage – less than one centimeter on average – from 1999 and 2016.

Data for the report was collected through the National Health and Nutrition Survey in custom-built mobile trailers that measured participants across the country, seeking to get a better picture of the nation’s health.

“This survey is different from others, because it includes measured weights and heights,” Cynthia Ogden, who co-wrote the report and led the National Health and Nutrition Survey analysis, told Courthouse news.

Ogden, an epidemiologist for the CDC, said many other weight and height reports include data that is taken through surveys that ask participants to self-report their information. This, she said, can lead to inflated height numbers and weights that tend to be less than accurate.

Hispanic, black and Asian-Americans were oversampled in the study to collect enough data for the smaller populations and the oversampling was taken into account during statistical analysis. 

Out of the groups that were individually surveyed, Mexican-Americans have seen the largest increase in weight, Ogden said. Women in this population saw an increase of 14 pounds during the study and have a mean BMI of 31.9, which is considered obese.

The report did not look at causes for the overall weight increase, but it fits into the context of another CDC report on obesity in the country, Ogden said.

“Forty percent of Americans have obesity according to that study, so looking at the increase in weight, we see that it is consistent with the obesity rate,” she said.

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