Obesity rates did not rise last year for the first time in 25 years, a study has said, but are still too high and will continue to dominate public health agenda.
The findings for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that while 34 per cent of adults aged 20 and over are overweight there has been no measurable increase in obesity in the past few years.
While it is undeniably good news that obesity levels are slowing, there is still an opportunity for the food industry to come up with innovative solutions to target and encourage healthy weight management.
Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type-2 diabetes.
The report, Obesity Among Adults in the United States -- No Change Since 2003-2004 is the latest analysis based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, conducted by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
The study found:
More than 72 million people were obese in 2005 to 2006. This includes 33.3 percent of men and 35.3 percent of women. The figures show no statistically significant change from 2003 to 2004, when 31.1 percent of men were obese and 33.2 percent of women were obese.
Adults aged 40 to 59 had the highest obesity prevalence compared with other age groups. Approximately 40 percent of men in this age group were obese, compared with 28 percent of men aged 20-39, and 32 percent of men aged 60 and older.
Obesity rates have increased over the past 25 years, CDC, said. Among men, there was an increase in obesity prevalence between 1999 and 2006. However, there was no significant change in obesity prevalence between 2003 to 2004 and 2005 to 2006 for either men or women.
Study author, Cynthia Ogden, said: "Since 1999, there appears to have been a levelling off in obesity among women, but the trend is less clear among men. We do know however that the gap between men and women has narrowed in recent years, with men catching up to the higher rates among women."
Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated from a person's weight and height and provides a reasonable indicator of body fatness and weight categories that may lead to health problems.
Janet Collins, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention, said: "In view of these alarmingly high rates of obesity in all population groups, CDC has made the prevention of obesity one of its top public health priorities.
"We are actively working in partnership with state and local public health agencies, the Nation's schools, community organizations, businesses, medical systems, and faith communities to promote and support healthy eating, physical activity, and healthy weight."