It’s official – Americans are getting fatter, again, despite millions of dollars being poured into campaigns to encourage healthy lifestyles. A new study released by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says national obesity rates had climbed “dramatically” since the 1980’s but had begun to level off in 2004, but, no more.

The latest study, which surveyed 5,000 people around the country, shows that 38 percent of the population are now obese compared to 32 percent ten years ago. The report suggests that national healthy eating campaigns aimed at lowering obesity rates were losing their punch to decrease the paunch. Stacey Snelling, a nutritionist at American University, said that the campaigns are so stale that they are losing their effectiveness.

Over the last ten years, much of the anti-obesity focus has been on nutrition and food, but people were “losing attention” to the message, suggesting it was time the focus turned to exercise.

She says that although there is no doubt that the campaigns have led to a decline in the consumption rate of sugar laden, fizzy drinks and fast-food chains now offering healthier menu options, health campaigns need to be expanded to have a wider focus.

“Our initial reaction to the obesity epidemic – limited sugary beverages and fried food – that only works to a point,” says Snelling adding more attention needs to be paid to programs which are aimed at getting people to exercise. She cites First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which offers programming for exercise and healthy eating, as an example.

However, these kinds of programs needed to aimed at all demographics, not just children and youth. She says obesity prevalence is much higher for adult women than adult men – 38 percent compared to 34.3 percent.

“With adults, the corporate environment has not changed as dramatically as schools have,” she says, adding that although some companies have introduced treadmill desks and other incentives to exercise, not all have taken “a stake in employees’ health”.

The study also finds non-Hispanic black and Hispanic adults and youth have higher rates of obesity than their white counterparts. Between black men and women, there is “a significant difference for rates of obesity”, with women’s rates soaring above men’s – 57 percent to 38 percent. Socio-economic forces determine the health status of any group of people.

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