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Obesity, defined as having a body mass index over 30, results from factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and access to food. The prevalence of obesity has increased dramatically in the United States since the mid-1970s. More than one-third of adults, 39.8% (over 93.9 million people) and 18.5% (13.7 million) children and adolescents are obese.

The Importance of Addressing Obesity

This country’s obesity levels are producing staggering increases in health care costs. In the U.S. alone, the condition has resulted in costs of over $147 billion for a single year. The human suffering and health care costs linked to obesity continue to mount. Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled; today, nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese. Estimates show that by 2030, almost half of Americans will be obese. If trends are not reversed, more people will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Others will face chronic obesity-related health problems such as:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Asthma

NIFA’s Impact

Addressing the causes of obesity and finding effective interventions is a priority of USDA research and a key mission area for NIFA. NIFA provides funding and leadership to fight the obesity epidemic by conducting educational programs. We support research to gain new insights into causes and prevention and disseminate that information to help low-income and at-risk communities learn how to make healthier lifestyles and food choices.

NIFA initiatives:

  • Help parents foster environments that support healthy choices for pre-school children
  • Provide teenagers with the guidance and information they need to learn healthier eating habits
  • Conduct research to discover the mechanisms of metabolic disorders that contribute to obesity
  • Study the prevalence of trends in rural and urban communities

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