Obesity has become pandemic in the United States. Currently, 2 in 3
US adults are classified as overweight or obese, compared with fewer than
1 in 4 in the early 1960s.1,2 Although
still viewed more as a cosmetic rather than a health problem by the general
public, excess weight is a major risk factor for premature mortality, cardiovascular
disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, certain cancers, and other
medical conditions.3 Obesity accounts for more
than 280 000 deaths annually in the United States and will soon overtake
smoking as the primary preventable cause of death if current trends continue.4 Indeed, obesity is already associated with greater
morbidity and poorer health-related quality of life than smoking, problem
drinking, or poverty.5 Despite this, excess
weight has not received the same attention from clinicians and policymakers
as have other threats to health such as tobacco use, hypertension, or hypercholesterolemia.
Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that obesity rates continue
to climb, even as significant reductions in other risk factors have been achieved.6
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