The American obesity epidemic 1989 – 2010


Here is the obesity prevalence in the USA in 1989, as the modern obesity epidemic was just getting started. A few years earlier the fear of fat had gripped the nation, and eating carbohydrates instead was the solution.

Two short decades later, in 2009, the official obesity statistics had changed beyond all recognition. And every year there is a new record. Just recently the numbers for 2010 was released. Do you want to see them?

The epidemic


The disaster is just getting worse. Despite that, the conventional wisdom is to keep doing the exact same thing. The old fear of fat lives on, even though the science behind it is dead. The solution to the obesity epidemic is said to be just “eating less and running more”.

That advice that has been demonstrated to be the least effective in at least thirteen scientific studies of the highest quality. That advice have already failed during the last two decades. Why? Nobody likes being hungry.

Do you have any ideas on how to change things?


LCHF for beginners – Weight loss without hunger

Weight loss and LC: Time to stop denying the science

How to lose 196 pounds without hunger

Why Americans are obese


Statistics from


  1. Paul
    This can't be right. Has the definition of obese changed since 1989 possibly?
  2. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    No. This is how bad it is.
  3. Margaretrc
    I sure wish I had an answer! I think all the educational blogs like this and (that point out the fallacies of conventional wisdom and back it up with science), videos like Fat Head and King Corn, and books written by reputable doctors/scientists like the Drs. Eades and Gary Taubes, will chip away at conventional wisdom as more and more people read them/watch them. But it is going to take a long time--at least as long as it took to create the problem, probably--to turn the tide. And key people who perpetuate the conventional myths need to (sorry, there is no other way to say it) die, get out of the picture, or get educated. And until the USDA dietary guidelines either disappear (and the grain subsidies along with them--preferable) or are formulated by people who have no ties to industry and are interested only in the science of why we get fat (and sick), it's going to be an uphill battle. It will probably get worse before it gets better.
    One writer (Michael Pollan) had this take in an article he wrote about the changes that are taking place in health care in the US. Now that insurance companies can't deny insurance to people with preexisting conditions, and can't kick people off when they develop an illness, it will be to their interest to investigate what is really making people sick and do something about it. Who knows? Maybe he has a point. We shall see.
  4. It's interesting that different areas of the country have different rates of obesity. So while there is a national trend toward more obesity, it is realized unequally, meaning that local factors are either speeding up or slowing down the trend. We can make a lot of guesses, but the best way is to correlate every conceivable factor against the pattern. Computers do that sort of thing well. Just knowing the speed up/ slow down factors wouldn't halt the epidemic, but it would be a step.

    I also like the idea Margaretrc mentions of insurance companies taking a serious interest in keeping people well. Right now, it seems like the big money to be made is in getting people fat with junk food and then treating them with "miracle" drugs and surgical procedures.

  5. Alexandra
    How are these statistics gathered? It's not like anyone has ever asked to weigh and measure me for a survey. I know my child's school has asked permission to weigh and measure my daughter.
  6. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    The height and weight is self-reported using telephone interviews. On average people tend to underestimate their weight under those circumstances. Thus, most likely the massive extent of the obesity problems in the US is still underestimated.
  7. Milton
    Actually, we did change the definition. Tom Naughton covers this in his Fat Head documentary. Either in the late 80s or late 90s, the government changed the way it defined obesity, which immediately increased the number of "obese" people by something like 25%. By making it seem as if there was a sudden epidemic, the government can justify getting more involved in our diets and health. Such as telling us to eat more grains and less fat...
  8. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    The statistics shown above use the exact same definition of obesity (BMI>30). It's hard not to call it a sudden epidemic.

    I agree with most of what Naughton says in his documentary. However I disagree with the part where he downplays the obesity problems. Sure, BMI>30 does not mean a person is necessarily huge. But unless he is a man and look like Rambo it means there is plenty of excess weight.

  9. Sarah
    @doc. In 1997, the WHO defined obesity as a BMI of more than 30. What was the definition before 1997?

    The 30% in the charts above reference the %of people who are obese, not the BMI.

    Can you provide the source of these charts?

  10. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    The source is at the bottom, under "Reference", it's from CDC. And obesity is defined in the charts as >30 BMI from the beginning in 1985 and on:
  11. Sarah
    I found the source of the charts - Also found that obesity was calculated differently until 2000. Prior to 2000 the NHANES II definitions were used:

    So unless they recalculated the original Obesity percentages from pre-2000 w/the 2000 WHO statistics, these numbers are not accurate.

    None of this is saying that we don't have a problem, but I would really like to see confirmation that we're looking at the same set of measurements over time.

  12. Margaretrc
    Doc, Is it true that Denmark has passed a tax on saturated fats that will take effect Oct. 1? I read that in a article in the New York Times promoting taxes on unhealthy foods/beverages here (shudder). If it is true, why aren't the Danes up in arms? Or are they? Oh my, I so worry about that happening here. In fact, there are a number of places that have already tried to implement taxes on soda and other unhealthy foods/beverages and it's only a short step to taxing sat fats and other things they think are unhealthy, but aren't. We already subsidize grains. If they were to turn around and start taxing saturated fat, people will be eating even more grain based, low fat, polyunsaturated fat laden garbage than they already do and all hope for an end to the obesity/diabetes/heart disease epidemic will be gone! I think if that ever happens here, I will have to consider moving to Sweden.
  13. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    Denmark is far behind Sweden, Norway and Finland. Right now there does hardly seem to be any debate going on there, so I hardly think anyone is up in arms.
  14. Zepp
    Great news from Denmark.. they have rethinking, now there not gonna be any fat-tax!
  15. Margaretrc
    That's good news, Zepp!
  16. Robin Nixon
    Although Denmark in the end repealed the fat tax, it was only because it proved so unpopular that customers were purchasing from Germany and elsewhere, taking money from Danish businesses, while the people were not losing any weight. In fact it proved such a failure that a proposed sugar tax in Denmark was scrapped - and that *would* have caused weight loss (or less weight gain, anyway).
  17. Jo tB
    I remember reading a post on the changing perception of obesity many years ago on Michael Eades blog. He cited Oliver Hardy (of Laurel and Hardy) as being an exceptionally obese person of his time, but these days he would be considered slightly overweight. that's how much our perceptions have changed.

    Clothing sizes have changed and gotten bigger. What was XXL 3 decades ago has become XL (or even L) to fool us into thinking that we are not as fat as we really are.

    Interesting read.

  18. Claus
    The government in Denmark is so happy to tax anything it can think of. Sugar is already heavily taxed but the whole fat tax was just another attempt to get a few million to the tax man under the guise of trying to get the common man to eat more greens :)

    It they wantet us to eat more greens they could have lowered the vat/sales tax on vegetables but NO OH MY GOD that is impossible in Denmark.

    But not is not all bad in the kingdom of Denmark as the Paleo movement is quite strong with a facebook page with just over 10.000 subscribers and the LCHF facebook page has grown to nearly 900 in a month in a country where we are only 5 million people.

    Also the most trending books within the eat healthy section is: tadaa paleo and LCHF books which you now can get in most big supermarkets.

Leave a reply

Reply to comment #0 by

Older posts