Over 40 percent of Americans could be obese by 2030, with the rate of severe obesity — 100 pounds or more overweight — doubling to 11 percent, according to a new Duke University study released on Monday.
As of 2012, just over a third of US adults are obese. By 2030, 42 percent will be, the Associated Press reported.
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The drastic rise in obesity has also been linked to higher heath care costs: researchers behind the study say that leveling the country's obesity rates over the next 20 years could save nearly $550 billion, according to CBS News.
The epidemic has caused an increase in chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several types of cancer, CBS News reported. A study published in the March 28 issue of the journal Cancer found rates for cancers of the esophagus, uterus, pancreas and kidney were on the rise, with obesity being a likely factor, according to CBS.
Previous studies had assumed the rate of obesity prevalence would reach 51 percent of the population by 2030, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. This study takes into account a number of variables including the cost of fuel, alcohol, fast food, the unemployment rate, and changes in demographics, Bloomberg reported.
The rate of the severely obese is expected to be double the current rate, jumping to 11 percent by 2030.
"This is a group at risk of really great health implications, yet they are increasing at even a greater rate than overall obesity," study co-author Justin Trogdon, a research economist at the Research Triangle Institute, told reporters, WebMD News reported.
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America's obesity rate was fairly stable between 1960 and 1980, when about 15 percent of people fell into the category. It increased to 32 percent in the '80s and '90s, and hit 36 percent in 2010, USA Today reported. There is speculation in the scientific community that the obesity rate might be leveling off.
"The obesity problem is likely to get much worse without a major public health intervention," said Eric Finkelstein, the study's author and an associate research professor at Duke University, USA Today reported.