Weight problems prices an grownup within the US almost $ 1,900 a yr

WEDNESDAY, March 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Even a small amount of weight gain in obese people can be associated with higher medical costs, according to a new study.

Obesity is known to contribute to health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer – and the cost of health care reflects this.

However, the new study delved a little deeper into the relationship between weight and medical costs. Overall, health care costs for obese adults were nearly $ 1,900 higher than their normal-weight peers each year. And once adults were in the obese category, even incremental weight gain meant additional health care expenses, the researchers found.

The results, which are based on nearly 180,000 Americans, sound like bad news.

Viewed differently, however, they also suggest that small weight improvements could save healthcare expenses.

“You could see this as a half-full, half-empty glass,” said Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.


“On the one hand, it is not just categorical shifts in the BMI that increase healthcare costs, but also small shifts,” said Schwartz, who was not involved in the study.

“On the other hand,” she added, “this suggests that even small improvements in BMI could make a difference.”

The BMI or Body Mass Index is a measure of weight in relation to height. It is often described in categories: A BMI of 30 to 34.9 is the “Obesity Class I” category, 35 to 39.9 is “Class II”, and a BMI of 40 or higher is “Class III” or “Severe” Obesity.

Once a BMI of 30 was reached in this study, annual health care spending increased by one unit to $ 253 per person.

Unsurprisingly, being severely overweight came at the highest price – it cost an additional $ 3,100 per person compared to Americans with a normal BMI.

Still, study leader Zachary Ward agreed that the results can be seen in a positive light.

Even if obese adults cannot lose much weight – a difficult task, Ward said – modest weight loss or even preventing further weight gain could be beneficial.


“If people can maintain their current weight as they age, it could avert some of those additional health care costs,” said Ward, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The study, published March 24th in the journal PLOS ONE, is at a time of rising obesity rates among Americans. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 42% of adults in the US were obese in 2018. That was a 30% increase about 20 years ago.

Just over 9% of adults are severely obese, the agency says.

The latest findings are based on more than 175,000 adults and children who participated in one of two federal health surveys.

Overall, according to Ward’s team, adult obesity accounted for nearly $ 173 billion in annual medical expenses nationwide.

In general, obesity-related health care costs were highest for people in their sixties, Ward said. But, he added, obesity in children and young adults is a problem in part because they are likely to become obese as they get older.


Ward said childhood is an ideal time for prevention – both because the earlier the better, and because programs in general make it easier for programs to reach out to children.

Schwartz agreed. “It’s so important to focus on good nutrition in childhood,” she said. “And it’s an area that the government can regulate.”

Schwartz noted efforts to make fresh produce and other healthy foods more accessible to low-income Americans through the Food Stamp and Women, Infants and Children programs. The National School Lunch Program has also updated its nutritional standards to increase the children’s fruit and vegetable intake.

But it’s never too late for adults to change their diet or start exercising either. It’s an uphill battle, Schwartz noted, and as people get older they battle the natural slowdown in metabolism.

As the latest findings show, even preventing further weight gain – especially slipping into severe obesity – can be seen as a gain.

“Every step in the right direction counts,” said Schwartz.

But for individuals to be successful, they need help. When healthy choices are made easier – for example, a job with fruits and vegetables instead of vending machines full of junk food – people will respond, Schwartz said.


More information

The US Department of Agriculture advises on inexpensive healthy eating.

SOURCES: Zachary Ward, PhD, MPH, Research Scientist, Center for Health Decision Science, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston; Marlene Schwartz, PhD, director of the Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity and Professor of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Connecticut, Hartford; PLOS ONE, March 24, 2021, online

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