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Americans not getting fatter

That's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say, anyway. Obesity rates have held steady for five years among men and a solid 10 years among women, which is good news. So what's the cause here? Better eating habits? Exercise? Or can we just not get any fatter?

Dr. Ludwig said the plateau might just suggest that “we’ve reached a biological limit” to how obese people could get. When people eat more, he said, at first they gain weight; then a growing share of the calories go “into maintaining and moving around that excess tissue,” he continued, so that “a population doesn’t keep getting heavier and heavier indefinitely.”

Furthermore, Dr. Ludwig said, “it could be that most of the people who are genetically susceptible, or susceptible for psychological or behavioral reasons, have already become obese.”

That leaves us with a third of American adults who are obese, and 17 percent of children. So it's good news in the sense of less bad news. It's a bit like unemployment, actually: Stopping the upward trend is good, but what we really need to do is bring those numbers down. And that would be real good news: The easiest way to control costs in the health-care system would be for people to need less health care. And the easiest way for that to happen would be for people to lower their risk of chronic diseases.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 14, 2010; 9:55 AM ET
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While the conclusions are interesting, they're still using BMI to calculate this.

Which was invented by a mathematician.

And is stupid.

Posted by: afalker | January 14, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

"And the easiest way for that to happen would be for people to lower their risk of chronic diseases."

The easiest way for that to happen would be for **our society to focus on reducing risk of chronic illness**

A focus on changing individual behavior will be far less effective than changing systemic practices and policies in our food system.

Posted by: alessandra_barbadoro | January 14, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

If the limit is biological, why do we see differences in obesity rates along class lines?

Posted by: SimonCox | January 14, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Oh no, it's Mr Creosote!

Posted by: Basilisc | January 14, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

alessandra_barbadoro is correct, it's our food system that's poisoning us - chronic illness is a main product of our unsustainable agri-business and food-processing industries.

Cheap "food-products" are a principal cause of our health care crisis, which is what SimonCox is pointing to also I assume.

Michael Pollan has been talking about this repeatedly lately. Try him in a short talk with Jon Stewart (pointing out that the food industry today creates patients for the health industry), and a longer one with Amy Goodman:

Posted by: rosshunter | January 14, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Good to know that the problem of cost in our health-care sector isn't that it systematically loots us relative to every other major industrialized country in the world, it's that we're too fat. Thanks, Ezra!

Posted by: redscott | January 14, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse


oh but we were told we couldn't tax our sugary drinks. that was a no-no from the start. Idiotic. All this report says is we're not getting any worse than we are which is one of if not the worst in the world which drives a large portion of our cost and will continue to do so.

Its like saying the economy's better but forgetting that we still have 17+ million out of work. Eventually it had to bottom out and it has. Until we all change our eating habits and change the crap that is in the local supermarkets that we have all but no choice to eat not much will be done to help resolve this issue. They really do need to take a look at how smoking was handled and handle it the same way. There was an ad that grossed people out that showed what a pile of fat inside someone looks like. They need to show that to Americans almost as much as the show the woman with her digits cut off due to amputations due to smoking. Shock therapy is what Americans need.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 14, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

"The easiest way to control costs in the health-care system would be for people to need less health care. And the easiest way for that to happen would be for people to lower their risk of chronic diseases." And to finish that thought, the easiest way for people to lower their risk of chronic disease is to alter their diets, that is, ditch the carbohydrates, gluten, and plant oils; increase consumption of saturated fats coming from grass-fed beef and pastured animals; drink raw whole milk and heavy cream; avoid anything that starts with low-fat or is processed; buy as much of your food from producers, not grocery stores; stop listening to your doctors and their organizations--they do not understand nutrition or what's healthy and what's not.

Posted by: johnsonr1 | January 14, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Cut subsidies for corn and sugar and tax candy and soda. HFCS and sugar in processed foods are killing this country, and the extra salt and other preservatives aren't helping. Candy and other simple carbohydrates used to be comparatively expensive and now they are dirt cheap, and the invention of High Fructose Corn Syrup is a win for cheap and a disaster for health.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | January 14, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

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