Dieting pays off: Less women found obese

By Mike Stobbe The Associated Press

ATLANTA – More American children are getting fat, with more than one-third now overweight. More of their dads are getting heavy, too.

But the percentage of women who are overweight seems to have peaked, leading some experts to wonder if the U.S. obesity epidemic may soon be leveling off.

Overall, larger proportions of the U.S. public are overweight than ever before, according to the government’s most recent check of the nation’s girth. But women – who as a group are more obese – seem to be holding steady.

The study didn’t examine why more men and children are getting fatter and women aren’t. But some experts think the leveling off in women could signal a turning point in the nation’s obesity epidemic.

“Women have always been more responsible about health than the general population,” said Dr. William Dietz, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported the new data.

“I’d like to think this shows women are leading the way in recognizing obesity as a health threat,” said Dietz, director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Another piece of research also suggests a turn.

The NPD Group, a New York-based market research firm, found the percentage of overweight adults has held steady from 2002 to 2005.

“I would say it has leveled off. The bad news is we haven’t found a way to lose weight,” said Harry Balzer, vice president of NPD.

Each year NPD tracks what thousands of people eat and their self-reported height and weight.

The CDC report is being published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

The findings come from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which collects data on a sample of about 5,000 people each year. The researchers clustered years together, presenting calculations for 1999-2000, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004.

The survey is considered the gold standard for obesity data – it’s done through in-person examinations that include actual height and weight measurements.

That beats telephone surveys, in which men tend to overstate their height and heavy people underestimate weight, throwing off obesity calculations, said Cynthia Ogden, the study’s lead author.

The study found the percentage of men who are overweight rose from 67 percent in 1999-2000 to 71 percent in 2003-2004.