Obesity is still rising among American adults, despite more than a decade of public-awareness campaigns and other efforts to get people to watch their weight, and women have now overtaken men in the obese category, new government research shows. For the past several years, experts thought the nation's alarming, decades-long rise in obesity had leveled off. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report Thursday that the obesity rate has climbed to nearly 38% of adults, up from 32% about a decade earlier. The report, based primarily on a survey conducted in 2013-14, also found a tipping of the scales toward women. Obesity rates for men and women had been roughly the same for about a decade. But in the new report, the rate was significantly higher for women, at 38%, compared with 34% for men.
The widening gap between men and women seems to be driven by what's happening among blacks and Hispanics, said the study's lead author, the CDC's Cynthia Ogden. Obesity rates for white men and white women remain very close. But for blacks, the female obesity rate has soared to 57%, far above the male rate of 38%. The gender gap is widening among Hispanics, too—46% for women, 39% for men. The new figures come from a regular government survey that involves not only interviewing people about their girth but also actually weighing them. Because of that, it is considered the gold standard for measuring the nation's waistline. However, it has about 5,000 participants each year—far fewer than some other federal surveys that ask about weight. Generally, it can be harder to draw reliable national conclusions from a smaller survey. (Read more obesity stories.)