Nutrition Myths
Obesity in United States - Statistics


  • According to the latest results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), in the period between 2011 and 2014, more than one-third of adults in the United States were obese.
  • The prevalence of obesity in the country, therefore, remains higher than the goal established by the Healthy People 2020, of 30.5%.

Obesity in United States – Statistics

Obesity statistics in United States

United States has the highest obesity rates in the developed world. (read more..) The following image shows the obesity prevalence in United States. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Note: Body Mass Index (BMI) is used in order to measure adults who are overweight and oesity in the United States.

Obesity in United States

Notes: Results are age-adjusted, for adults aged 20 years and over and presented accordingly to the survey years.

Obesity evolution in the United States

Between 1988-1994 and 2013-2014 the obesity prevalence among adults in the United States increased considerably, from 22.9% to 37.7%.

Extreme obesity registered a continuous growth, with a prevalence of 6.3% and 6.4% in the latest available results for 2009-2010 and 2011-2012, which indicates some stability.

The results show a relatively constant trend for the overweight population.

Different Gender Results

In the United States, the obesity and overweight prevalence in male and female populations registered distinct results and even, in some cases, different paths.

The main results are:

  • In 2011-2012, the prevalence of obesity and extreme obesity was higher in the female population than in the male population;
  • On the contrary, in the same period, the prevalence of the overweight population was higher in the male population compared with the prevalence in the female population;
  • The female obesity prevalence shifted from 25.4% in 1988-1994 to 36.1% in 2011-2012. This percentage has been constantly increasing since 2005-2006, although to a smaller extent in recent years;
  • On the other hand, male obesity prevalence was 33.5% in 2011-2012, which compares with 20.2% in 1988-1994 and 35.5% in 2009-2010;
  • Extreme obesity in the male and female populations more than doubled between 1988-1994 and 2011-2012. In the female population this percentage continued to increase in the last available results, while in the male population stabilized at 4.4%;
  • The overweight prevalence in male population has presented a negative trend since 1988-1994. As for the female population, the overweight prevalence registered an irregular path.

Different Racial/Ethnical Results

Although rates of obesity have been increasing among adults all over America, there are some racial/ethnic groups that are disproportionally more afflicted than others.

The NHANES produces results considering Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, Non-Hispanic Asian and Hispanic racial/ethnic groups.

For the period 2011-2014, the main results were:

  • Approximately 1 in 2 (48.1%) Non-Hispanic Black adults were obese. The lowest percentage belongs to the Non-Hispanic Asian, with 11.7%. Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White registered, respectively, obesity prevalence of 42.5% and 34.5%; Almost 3 in 5 (56.9%) of Non-Hispanic Black women was obese, followed by Hispanic women (45.7%);
  • The pattern among men is different compared with the women and the overall adult population. Among men, Hispanic men presented the highest obesity prevalence, with 39.0%, followed by Non-Hispanic Black men (37.5%);
  • In all race/ethnic groups, with the exception of Non-Hispanic Asian, men presented a lower obesity prevalence than women, especially in the Non-Hispanic Black and the Hispanic groups.

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