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U.S. obesity may drive up health care costs

November 18, 2009 12:34:27 AM PST
According to a report released on Wednesday, if Americans don't start exercising and watching what they eat, by the year 2018, 108 million American adults will be considered obese, and it will put a major strain on the health-care system.Newly analyzed data shows that if current trends continue, 43 percent of American adults will be obese by 2018, and the weight gain could drive up health care costs by $344 billion.

The report comes from a collaboration of health care advocacy groups and is based on research done at Emory University.

Researchers say obesity is related to the onset of many illnesses. Reducing obesity rates, researchers say, is vital to our health and the solvency of the health-care system, especially at a time when Congress is debating health-care reform.

The report is the first estimate of the prevalence and the cost of obesity at the state and national level in the future. Nearly 29 percent of California adults are obese, and the report shows that figure will increase to 34.4 percent in 2013. In the year 2018, 41.3 percent will be obese in California.

The upward trend in obesity will cost California more than $40 million in health-related expenses unless things change.

Whether you're underweight, normal body weight, overweight or obese depends on your body mass index. For example, a person who is 5 feet 9 inches and 203 pounds would be considered obese, according to the CDC.

The groups suggest the U.S. can avoid this by designating obesity as a treatable medical condition and by educating Americans about the serious health risks of obesity.