A new national study shows a generational shift in obesity patterns is occurring. In short, people are becoming obese at younger ages than in generations past.

Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System found Americans are getting heavier younger and carrying the extra weight for longer periods over their lifetime.

As a result, the study suggests the impact on chronic diseases and life expectancy may be worse than previously thought, according to a university press release. The findings will be published April 12 in the International Journal of Obesity.

In the journal, researchers report that:
• 20 percent of those born 1966 to 1985 were obese by ages 20 to 29.
• Among their parents, those born 1946-1955, that level of obesity was not reached until ages 30-39
• That level of obesity was not until ages 40-49 for individuals born between 1936-1945, and obesity prevalence was even later, during the 50s, for those born between 1926-1935.

Further research is needed to understand the future effect the obesity trend will have on diabetes rates and mortality.

“Many people have heard that Americans are getting heavier,” says lead author Joyce Lee, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatric endocrinologist at the U-M Mott Children’s Hospital and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the U-M Medical School. “But it’s very important to understand who the obesity epidemic is affecting.

“Our research indicates that higher numbers of young and middle-age American adults are becoming obese at younger and younger ages,” she says.

The federally funded U-M study also shows obesity trends were worse for women and blacks. Among 20 to 29-year-olds, 20 percent of whites were obese compared to 35 percent of blacks in that age group.


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