As Obesity Rises, Number of Dieters Decreases

HealthDay News — One in every 3 people in the United States is now obese, compared with 1-in-5 20 years ago, but many have given up on trying to lose the excess weight, according to a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Jian Zhang, MD, DrPH, an associate professor of epidemiology with Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, and colleagues analyzed data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a federally funded ongoing survey that keeps track of Americans’ health and diet habits.

The researchers found that participants surveyed between 2009 and 2014 were 17% less likely overall to say they’d tried to lose weight during the previous year than those surveyed between 1988 and 1994. All racial/ethnic groups across both genders reported decreased interest in weight loss, but women in particular were more likely to say they’d given up on it. By 2014, black women were 31% less likely to have tried to lose weight compared with 2 decades prior, and white women were 27% less likely to have made the attempt.

People who were overweight but not yet obese have experienced the greatest loss of interest in maintaining a healthy weight, Zhang told HealthDay. Zhang said that future efforts to improve public health should focus on lifestyle changes that promote healthy eating and exercise for everyone, rather than an emphasis on losing weight. “Motivation should come from family, friends, physicians, and the media in educating about the health risks of being overweight,” he added.

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Snook KR, Hansen AR, Duke CH, Finch KC, Hackney AA, Zhang J. Change in percentages of adults with overweight or obesity trying to lose weight, 1988-2014. JAMA. 2017;317(9):971-973. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.20036