Harvard Men's Health Watch

Obesity in America: Large portions, large proportions

Obesity is not a new problem. Forty years ago, 4 of every 10 Americans were overweight or obese. But obesity is a growing problem, and it's growing quickly; today, two of every three Americans need to lose weight. In the 1960s, obesity was an epidemic; today, it's a pandemic.

Why worry?

Most people worry about their weight because they want to look good. Appearance is important, but the consequences of being overweight go well beyond image and self-esteem. Excess body fat has serious consequences for the body's metabolism, including:

  • Higher levels of triglycerides

  • Higher levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol

  • Lower levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol

  • Decreased tissue responsiveness to insulin and higher insulin levels

  • Higher blood sugar levels

Ugly numbers are more worrisome than an unflattering profile, for they explain the dramatic increase in illnesses in the United States that cause an enormous burden of death and disability, including:

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »