The price to pay for obesity

Related tags Obesity

Obesity-related US medical costs reached $75 billion in 2003 with
taxpayers paying up to $175 annually to foot the bill, reports a
new study. According to, sales of diet pills
and related supplements have been increasing 10 to 20 per cent a
year since 1997 as more Americans struggle to fight fat.

The research - carried out by the nonprofit group RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - evaluated state-by-state expenditures relating to weight problems.

The study​ found that the US public pays $39 billion a year through Medicare and Medicaid programs, which cover sicknesses caused by obesity including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gallbladder disease and several types of cancer.

"Obesity has become a crucial health problem for our nation, and these findings show that the medical costs alone reflect the significance of the challenge,"​ said secretary for the department of health and human services Tommy Thompson.

Findings suggest that states spend about one-twentieth of their medical costs on obesity, from a low of 4 per cent in Arizona to a high of 6.7 per cent in Alaska.

California was found to spend the most on health care for the obese - $7.7 billion - with Wyoming spending the least, a figure of $87 million.

"This is one of the major health epidemics we're looking at in America, I truly see this as a very grave problem for which we in the public need to certainly be pro-active in terms of taking charge of our health,"​ said Thompson.

However the US weight loss market - valued by Marketdata Enterprises to be over $39 billion - is already saturated with low-fat and low-cal products such as, diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners and OTC meal replacements & diet pills to encourage healthier lifestyles but the problem still persists.

"We have a lot of taxpayers financing the costs of overweight and obesity for those in public sector health plans, that provides justification for governments to find cost-effective strategies to reduce the burdens of obesity,"​ said health economist Eric Finkelstein.

Before the ban of the weight loss herbal ephedra, as many as 3 billion servings of it were being sold a year.

"Obesity should be treated and prevented more aggressively through public health programs to encourage healthy diets and exercise,"​ said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit health advocacy group.

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