Obesity rates among adults are coming to standstill, according to a study released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obesity rates have increased since 1976, but researchers observed no significant change since 2003, according to the report. Obesity rates in adults age 20 years and older have hovered around 33 to 35 percent since 2003.
Barb Troy, clinical assistant professor of nutrition at Marquette, said her initial reaction to the study was one of encouragement. But after she took a closer look, she said she realized obesity rates were only at a halt, not a decline.
"It's better than nothing," she said. "But there are still some troublesome numbers."
The report found more than 34 percent of adults, or upward of 72 million people, to be obese.
Those aged 40 to 59 had the highest obesity rate. Approximately 40 percent of men and 41 percent of women in this age group were obese. Comparatively, 28 percent of men and 30.5 percent of women ages 20 to 39 were obese, according to the report.
Troy said some population groups, including American black women, were "still doing very poorly."
Data from the report indicated that non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American women were more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white women.
Obesity affected approximately 53 percent of non-Hispanic black women and 51 percent of Mexican-American woman. Obesity rates among non-Hispanic white women at about 39 percent.
Yet such race and ethnic variances in obesity were not observed in men, according to the study.
Obese men and women have more than 25 percent body fat, Troy said. She added that there are different ways to define obesity based on height, weight and body mass index.
Body mass index is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. For adults 20 years and older, a BMI of 30.0 is considered obese, according to the report.
Ronald Prince, an obesity researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the biggest risk of a high BMI is disease. He said this is why it is essential to examine what actions are taken to combat high obesity rates.
Prince said education is one combative measure. Education about obesity will eventually lead to a reduction, he said.
"But it will take a long time to kick in and have an effect," he said.
Much of obesity is a product of culture, he said. Frequently, decreasing levels of physical activity and larger portions of food lead to obesity that can cause disease.
Nicole Rumsey, a registered dietitian at Aurora Sinai Medical Center, said she sees many obesity related diseases.
Of all patients who come into Aurora Sinai, 40 percent have obesity related Type 2 diabetes, she said.
Contrary to the CDC study, Rumsey said she had not noticed obesity rates evening out in the Milwaukee area.
"It's interesting that obesity is leveling off when Type 2 diabetes is always increasing," she said.
To help curb obesity and related health risks, Rumsey said she recommends cutting soda and juice from the diet, eating on a regular schedule and bumping up physical activity.