Is America as Fat as It Can Get?

According to the latest data collected for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey [NHANES], Americans are still getting fatter, but they may be getting fatter at a slightly slower rate.

Data from 1988-1994 showed that obesity in adults had increased by approximately 8 % in the United States since 1976-1980, after being relatively stable over the period 1960-1980.


By 2007-2008, 33.8% of all Americans were obese (BMI = 30+), while the percentage of overweight Americans had jumped to 68% (BMI = 25+)

68%…not good.

But wait, there may be good news.

The data also showed that during the period from 1999-2008, female obesity levels showed no statistically significant changes. Similar results have been seen for males since 2003.

What does this mean?

This means that the increases in obesity we have been seeing since 1976 may be slowing down.

America may be reaching “peak obesity”.

That’s kind of like “peak oil” except that instead of a future world where Mad Max type characters run around killing and hoarding the dwindling supplies of oil, America may be on the road to de-flabbifying itself.


…before you get all excited and celebrate with a box of twinkies, previous data from the NHANES survey produced the following projections

Obesity trends – USA

This data showed that while the numbers of overweight Americans was flattening out, the number of obese Americans is likely to increase.

This means that future America may be populated by a large group of really fat people, a smaller groups of “normal” fat people and another small group of fit people.

Unless the whole “peak oil” thing is right…and in that case, we’re looking at the whole Mad Max scenario


  • OECD Health Working PapersNo. 45,  20/03/2009, English, 82 pages, doi: 10.1787/225215402672 The Obesity Epidemic: Analysis of Past and Projected Future Trends in Selected OECD Countries
  • Science Daily
  • JAMA