The nation’s obesity epidemic is under attack—it has been for several years through efforts to decrease junk food consumption and increase healthy eating, particularly in schools. But, it turns out, these efforts may not be enough, according to new data that show U.S. obesity rates are still on the rise, particularly among ethnic women and children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a study that shows obesity rates rose to close to 38 percent in 2013-2014, a number that’s up from 32 percent a decade ago.
According to the research, obesity rates were higher for adult women than men: 38 percent for women compared with 34.3 percent for men. For black women, the rate is startling: 57 percent.
Study author Cynthia Ogden told the BBC this number is “statistically significant.”
"That's kind of a new finding," said Ms Ogden. "Now, what's happened is prevalence in women has gone above what it was in men again."
Obesity rates are also higher among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic adults and youth.
Obesity rates leveled off in 2004 after climbing steadily in the previous three decades. Efforts to curb unhealthy eating habits have been heavily emphasized. And sales of sodas-- particularly among children—have dropped significantly in the last decade. USDA made significant changes to school lunch programs and updated the food pyramid to the “MyPlate” tool that emphasized fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins such as beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Campaigns such as First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" program also helped steer the nation’s children toward healthier lifestyles.
But experts say these efforts are becoming less effective as they become more ubiquitous in our culture.
"Our initial reaction to the obesity epidemic - limited sugary beverages and fried food - that only works to a point," Stacey Snelling, a nutritionist teaching at American University, told the BBC.
Food companies have also become better equipped at marketing to the health-conscious consumer with what may not be the healthiest option. Claims like “made with whole grain”, or conversely, “gluten-free” litter processed food products, as do “natural” and even “non-GMO” assertions. But many of those foods may still be high in sugars and other unhealthy ingredients leading to the rising obesity rates.
Recent research points toward home-cooked meals as one of the best lines of defense against developing type 2 diabetes, which often accompanies obesity.
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Kid eating burger image via Shutterstock