Still, the health risks posed by the obesity epidemic are inescapable. Baby boomer's have the highest rate of obesity, compared with previous generations. And as boomers age, Medicare will have to pay a hefty price for the chronic conditions caused by obesity, the report said.
Why are so many Americans so fat? "Quite simply, because we can," said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Yale University School of Medicine Prevention Research Center, who was not involved with the report.
"Throughout almost all of human history, calories have been relatively scarce and hard to get, and physical activity an unavoidable part of survival," he said. "We have now devised a modern world in which physical activity is scarce and hard to get, and calories are unavoidable. We are the proverbial fish out of water, living in an environment totally at odds with our physiology."
To help reverse the obesity trend, the report authors offered a number of solutions, including nutrition and obesity counseling and screening for obesity-related diseases, both for adults and children.
They also recommended increasing the number of programs in communities that make nutritious foods more affordable and accessible, and providing safe places for people to get physical activity.
The report also called upon local, state and the federal governments to support programs that provide schools with healthy foods, make healthy foods more affordable, support more physical activities at schools, get kids to watch less TV and spend less time with computers and video games, and encourage companies to offer workplace wellness programs.
For more on the health risks of obesity, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University Medical School, New Haven, Conn.; July 1, 2009, teleconference with Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., executive director, Trust for America's Health; James S. Marks, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; July 1, 2009, report: F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America 2009