Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Fact Sheet

Obesity in California

  • The annual cost of medical care attributable to obesity in California is estimated to be almost $7.7 billion.23

  • About two-thirds of men (63.4%) and almost half of women (45.2%) are overweight or obese. 24

  • Based on the 2001 California Health Interview Survey, more than half of all adults (61% of men and 56% of women) reported weight gains of more than 20 pounds as adults. 25

Global obesity

  • An estimated 17.6 million children under five are estimated to be overweight worldwide. This translates into one in 10 children. 22

  • About 1.7 billion adults are considered overweight, with at least 312 million being clinically obese. 22

Childhood Obesity

  • Over the past three decades, the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years. At present, approximately nine million children over 6 years of age are considered obese and 15 percent are considered at risk of becoming overweight. 1, 4

  • The average weight for a 10-year old boy in 1963 was 74.2 pounds; by 2002, the average weight was nearly 85 pounds. The average weight for a 10-year old girl in 1963 was 77.4 pounds; by 2002, the average weight was nearly 88 pounds. 3

  • African-American, Hispanic and American Indian adolescents have higher rates of obesity than the rest of the population. Up to 24 percent of African-American and Hispanic children are above the 95 percentile. 1

  • Mexican-American children ages 6-11 were more likely to be overweight (22 percent) than African-American children (20 percent) and non-Hispanic white children (14 percent). 4

  • Psychological consequences of overweight: children are at an increased risk for discrimination, low self-esteem and poor body image; adolescent girls are less likely to be accepted into college, less likely to be married, and less likely to be economically well off in adulthood. 7

  • Fifty percent of overweight children/teens remain overweight as adults. 7

  • Approximately 26-41 percent of overweight preschool children will become overweight adults. 7

  • Children with two obese parents are more than six times as likely to become obese than children with non-obese parents. Children with only one obese parents are twice as likely to become obese as adults.7

  • Among white children, those with parents of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to be overweight. 7

  • Girls without siblings are at greater risk for becoming overweight. For each sibling there is a 14 percent decreased likelihood. 7
  • Girls with older mothers are at increased risk of being overweight. 7

  • More than half of television advertisements directed at children promote food and beverages such as candy, fast food, snack foods, soft drinks and sweetened breakfast cereals. 1

  • Based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES II and III), among children 12-17 years of age the prevalence of overweight increased 2 percent for each additional hour of TV viewed daily. 8

Food Consumption/Nutrition

  • Sweets, desserts, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages account for nearly 25 percent of all calories consumed by Americans. Salty snacks and fruit-flavored drinks add another five percent. Sodas alone contribute 7.1 percent of total calories eaten. Healthy fruits and vegetables make up only 10 percent of caloric intake in the U.S. diet.26

  • Annual sales of food and beverages to young consumers exceeded $27 billion in 2002. Food and beverage advertisers collectively spend $10 billion to $12 billion a year to reach children and youth. Of that, more than $1 billion is spent on media advertising to children, and $3 billion is spent on packaging designed for children. 1

  • Consumption of away-from-home foods comprised 20 percent of children's total caloric intake in 1977, rising to 32 percent by 1996.1

  • More than 60 percent of young people eat too much fat, and less than 20 percent eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. 6

  • By 14 years of age, 32 percent of adolescent girls and 52 percent of boys in the United States are consuming three or more eight-ounce servings of sweetened soft drinks daily. 1

  • Among young children, soft drink consumption increased by 23 percent, while fluid milk consumption decreased by 16 percent between the late 1970's and early 1990's.

  • Children and youth aged 11 to 18 years visit fast food outlets an average of twice a week. 1

  • A high degree of parental control of diet is linked to a child's inability to regulate food intake, and to the amount of body fat in girls. 7
  • Americans are consuming more calories that they did 30 years ago, and the rate of increase is three times greater in women than men. 2

  • Women increased their daily calorie consumption 22 percent between 1971 and 2000, from 1,542 calories per day to 1,877 calories. The calorie intake for men increased 7 percent from 2,450 calories per day to 2,618 calories. 2

  • Only about one-fourth of U.S. adults eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. 6

  • Household income spent on away-from-home foods rose from 25 percent of total food spending in 1970 to nearly one-half in 1999. 1


  • Type 2 diabetes is rapidly becoming a disease of children and adolescents. In 2000, it was estimated that 30 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls born in the United States are at risk for being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives. 1

  • Medical complications of extreme overweight in children: Increased stress on weight bearing joints, increased blood pressure, risk of diabetes mellitus. 7

  • Obesity-associated annual hospital costs for children and youth more than tripled over two decades, rising from $35 million in 1979-1981 to $127 million in 1997-1999. 1

  • Children who are ever breast-fed are 15%-25% less likely to become overweight, and those who are breast-fed for 6 months or more are 20%-40% less likely. 17

  • After adjusting for inflation and converting to 2004 dollars, the national health expenditures related to obesity and overweight in adults alone range from $98 billion to $129 billion annually. 1

  • Among U.S. adults in 1996, $31 billion of treatment costs (in year 2000 dollars)-17% of direct medical costs-for cardiovascular disease was related to overweight and obesity. 17

  • In 2000, health care costs associated with physical inactivity were more than $76 billion. 17

  • A 10% weight loss will reduce an overweight person's lifetime medical costs by $2,200-$5,300. 17

  • The lifetime medical costs of five diseases and conditions (hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high cholesterol) among moderately obese people are $10,000 higher than among people at a healthy weight. 17

  • Up to 20 percent of patients who have weight-loss surgery require follow-up operations to correct complications. 20

  • Nearly 30 percent of patients who have weight-loss surgery develop nutritional deficiencies such as anemia, osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease. 20

  • According to the United States Department of Agriculture, healthier diets could prevent at least $71 billion per year in medical costs, lost productivity, and lost lives. 15

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that if all inactive Americans became active, we would save $77 billion in annual medical costs.16
    Cost of Diet- and Inactivity-Related Diseases
    Cancer 9 - $189.5 billion
    Coronary heart disease 10 - $133.2 billion
    Diabetes 11 $132 - billion
    Obesity12 - $117 billion
    High blood pressure 13 - $55.5 billion
    Stroke 14 - $53.6 billion

Physical Activity

  • A 2000 survey found that only 8.0 percent of elementary schools, 6.4 percent of middle/junior high schools and 5.8 percent of senior high schools provided daily physical education for the entire school year for all of the students in each grade.

  • In 2003, 40 percent of female high school students and 27 percent of male high school students reported a level of physical activity that did not meet the criteria for the recommended amount of either moderate or vigorous physical activity. 5

  • Starting in adolescence, girl's physical activity declines 7.4 percent per year, while boys' activity decreases 2.7 percent per year. 7

  • In 1969, an average of 48 percent of all students and 90 percent living no more than a mile away walked or bicycled to school. In 1999, only 19 percent of children walked to or from school and 6 percent rode bicycles to school. 1

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25 percent of adults are inactive in their leisure time. More than one-half of adults 65 years of age and over indicated being physically inactive during leisure time compared to about one-third of adults 18-44 years of age. 1, 5

  • Despite the proven benefits of physical activity, more than 60% of American adults do not get enough physical activity to provide health benefits. 17

  • If 10% of adults began a regular walking program, $5.6 billion in heart disease costs could be saved. 17

  • Every dollar spent on physical activity programs for older adults with hip fractures results in a $4.50 return. 17

Obesity among adults

  • Results from the 1999-2002 2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicate that an estimated 65 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese, and nearly one-third (31 percent) of all adults are classified as obese. 4, 5

  • Thirty percent of adults 20 years of age and over -over 60 million people - had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater in 1999-2002, compared with 23 percent in 1994. 1

  • More adult women are obese (33 percent) than men (28 percent). Obesity is more prevalent among African-American women (49 percent) and Mexican-American women (38 percent). 4

  • Adult men and women are roughly an inch taller that they were in 1960, but are nearly 25 pounds heavier on average as well. The average weight for men aged 20-74 years rose dramatically from 166.3 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002, while the average weight for women the same age increased from 140 pounds in 1960 to 164,3 pounds in 2002. 3

  • Average Body Mass Index (BMI) a weight-for-height formula used to measure obesity, has increased among adults from approximately 25 in 1969 to 28 in 2002. 3

  • A study published in the Journal of the American Medical ASssociation examined obesity rates among immigrants and native-born Americans. It found that living in the United States for more than 15 years was associated with a 1.30 increase in body mass index. 19

  • Only eight percent of immigrants who had been living in the country for a year were obese; that figure jumped to 19 percent among immigrants who had been here at least 15 years. 19

Food Insecurity

  • More than 2.24 million (28.3%) low-income adults in California are food insecure and 658,000 suffer hunger. 21

  • The highest rates of food insecurity are among low-income American Indians and Alaska Natives, African Americans and Latinos. 21

  • Approximately 14.4% of older, low-income adults, those over 65 years old, were found to be food insecure. 21

  • Among low-income pregnant women the prevalence of food insecurity was 29.5%. 21


1 Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. 2005. Institute of Medicine. www.iom.edu

2 Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report. Volume 53 (04), February 6, 2004. www.cdc.gov

3 Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index, United States 1960-2002. Advance Data No. 347. October 2004. (PHS 2005-1250). www.cdc.gov

4 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Adults: United States, 1999-2002. www.cdc.gov

5 Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans, 2004. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus02cht.pdf

6Preventing Obesity and Chronic Diseases Through Good Nutrition and Physical Activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 2003. www.cd.gov

7 Childhood Overweight, A Fact Sheet for Professionals, University of California, Berkeley, Cooperative Extension, Department of Nutritional Sciences, January 2000.

8 Pediatric Overweight: A Review of the Literature, The Center for Weight and Health, University of California, Berkeley. June 2001

9 American Cancer Society (ACS). Cancer Facts & Figures 2004. Atlanta, GA: ACS, 2004.

10 American Heart Association (AHA). Heart and Stroke Statistical - 2004 Update. Dallas, TX: AHA, 2003.

11 American Diabetes Association. "Economic Cost of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2002." Diabetes Core, 2003, vol. 26, no. 3, pp.917-332.

12 U.S Department of Health and Human Services. "The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity 1001." Rockville, MD: U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General, 2001.

13 American Heart Association (AHA). Heart and Stroke Statistics - 2004 Update. Dalllas, TX: AHA, 2003.

14 American Heart Association (AHA). Heart and Stroke Statistics - 2004 Update. Dalllas, TX: AHA, 2003.

15 Frazao E. "High Costs of Poor Eating Patterns in he United States." In America's Eating Habits: Changes and Consequences. Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Washington, DC: USDA, 1999. Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 750, pp 5-32.

16 Pratt M, Macera CA, Wang G. "Higher Direct Medical Costs Associated with Physical Inactivity." The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 2000, vol. 28 no. 10, pp 63-70.

17 Preventing Obesity and Chronic Diseases Through Good Nutrition and Physical Activity, Revised August 2003. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/

18 "Why Hispanics/Latinos need to know about the CDC, what they do and what VERB/Ponte las pilas has to do with it." Hispanic PR Wire, January 15, 2004.

19 Obesity Among US Immigrant Subgroups by Duration of Residence. Journal of the American Medical Association. Goel et al. JAMA.2004; 292: 2860-2867.

20 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,

21 Over 2.2 Million Low-Income California Adults Are Food Insecure; 658,000 Suffer Hunger, UCLA Center for Health Policy and Research, April 2003. www.healthpolicy.ucla.edu

22 World Health Organization (WHO), www.who.int/nut/ and the International Obesity Task Force, www.iotf.org/

23 Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, Johnson CL. Prevalence and trends in obesity among U.S. adults. JAMA, 2002; 288: 1723-1727

24 Vainio H, Kaaks R, Bianchini. Weight control and physical activity in cancer prevention: international evaluation of the evidence. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 2002; Supplement 2: S94-S100.

25 2001 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS 2001)

26 Gladys Block, professor of epidemiology and public health nutrition at UC Berkeley, June 2004, Journal of Food Chemistry and Analysis.

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