In 1999, US health officials warned that the health of millions of Americans was being imperiled by a "growing obesity epidemic." Twenty years later, it appears that warning wasn't very effective: A report issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the obesity rate in the US in 2017-2018 spiked to 42.4%, per US News & World Report. Back when that 1999 warning came out, the obesity rate hovered at just over 30%, while a similar report from 2015-2016 placed the rate at 40%, CBS News notes. The CDC health survey on height and weight, which polled more than 5,000 adults, also found that those with severe obesity—having a body mass index of 40 or higher—almost doubled over the past two decades, rising from 4.7% to 9.2%.
Obesity rates differ according to race: Black Americans claimed the highest rate, at 49.6%, while Hispanics come in at 44.8% and whites at 42.2%; Asians hold the lowest rate, at a relatively low 17.4%. "The findings are important for everyone," study co-author Cynthia Ogden tells UPI. "We know that obesity and severe obesity in particular are associated with many chronic conditions, including diabetes and heart disease." Which means it looks likely that more Americans will turn up with those conditions—and likely overwhelm medical professionals trying to contend with the issue, per CBS News. "How's a provider going to do that?" a George Washington University obesity expert says, adding that he's estimated every primary care doctor in the US is treating an average of 100 severely obese patients. "Severe obesity really requires very intensive therapy." (Read more obesity stories.)