were presented not to compare or contrast, but to describe differences in the population. For instance, the UK data show some disparity by social class for adult women, with a significant difference in prevalence between lower- and upper-income women being predicted by 2020. The US data for childhood obesity show some disparities by race, sex, ethnic group, and education of the head of the household.

  • Low levels of physical activity and consumption of healthy foods and increases in the consumption of less healthy foods over the past few decades account for the worsening situation in both countries.

  • A leveling off of obesity rates among children in both countries may offer some hope that the epidemic is abating. Whether this is the start of a positive trend is still not clear, however, and a dangerously high number of people remain at risk.

It should be noted that definitions of “overweight” and “obese” can differ slightly. Generally, in both countries, an adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, while an adult with a BMI at or above 30 is considered obese. The data for US children presented by Ogden use the CDC 2000 growth charts to define excess weight: an overweight child is defined as at or above the 85th percentile of BMI-for-age but less than the 95th percentile, and an obese child as at or above the 95th percentile.


McPherson characterized obesity as a worldwide problem. The United Kingdom’s obesity prevalence rates lag behind those of the United States by 7 to 10 years, but, as indicated by the statistics reported above, the UK numbers are on the rise. According to data from CDC and the Health Survey of England, the percentages of adults with BMI categorized as overweight and obese are roughly similar in the two countries, although the United States now has more people at the extremes, that is, more thin and morbidly obese individuals, especially women (Figure 2-1).

These prevalence rates have implications for future morbidity. For example, McPherson estimated that one-quarter of adult males in the United Kingdom will have Type 2 diabetes by 2040.

Reversing the Trend

The UK government commissioned Foresight—Tackling Obesities: Future Choices, a report to better understand the obesity epidemic and identify strategies for addressing it (Box 2-1). The findings in that report were

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