Feb. 26 (UPI) -- More than 40 percent of American adults are obese, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.
Released Thursday, the new numbers show the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults has steadily increased since 2011.
And more than 9 percent of Americans have severe obesity, a figure that has nearly doubled over the first two decades of the 21st century.
"The findings are important for everyone," study co-author Cynthia Ogden, a CDC epidemiologist, told UPI. "We've seen increases in obesity going back to the 1980s, so it continues to be a public health concern. We know that obesity and severe obesity, in particular, are associated with many chronic conditions including diabetes and heart disease."
Overall, 42.4 percent of U.S. adults met the criteria for obesity, which is defined as body mass index of 30 or higher. BMI is measured by a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.
To derive the estimates, Ogden and her colleagues analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, or NHANES, from 1999 through 2018.
Among all adults, the prevalence of both obesity and severe obesity was highest in non-Hispanic black adults -- at 49.6 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively -- compared with other groups. In all, 58.9 percent of non-Hispanic black women are obese -- by far the highest rate of any demographic group included in the analysis.
In addition, adults between 40 and 59 years of age had the highest rates of both obesity and severe obesity, at 44.8 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively.
"What we found most striking is that more than 40 percent of adults in the U.S. had obesity in 2017-2018, which is more than 10 percentage points higher than the prevalence was in 1999-2000," Ogden said.