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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Clinical and translational science Volume 3, Issue 3, June 2010, Pages 123-125 The published version is available at DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-8062.2010.00191.x. Copyright © John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Obesity has increased over the last 20 years, from a condition affecting only a small portion of populations in developed countries, into a global pandemic. The impact of obesity can be appreciated in the context of the populations at risk, and it is estimated that >1 billion adults worldwide are overweight (BMI >25 kg/m2), 300 million of whom are clinically obese (BMI >30 kg/m2). In the United States, 65% of adults are overweight, and 32.2% of them are obese, a prevalence that has doubled over 20 years. In industrialized countries, obesity rates have tripled, coinciding with adoption of a Western lifestyle. Further, the growing worldwide rates of childhood obesity have reached epidemic values in developed countries. This global obesity pandemic reflects genetic susceptibility, availability of high-energy foods, and decreased physical activity. Accelerating rates of obesity have profound health and economic consequences. Obesity is associated with a myriad of co-morbidities, including type II diabetes, coronary artery disease, obstructive sleep apnea, stroke, cancer, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and liver and biliary disease which collectively increase mortality. Indeed, the health care impact of chronic obesity exceeds that of smoking or alcohol abuse. National health care costs of obesity are $70-100 billion, and if this trend continues, in 15 years 20% of health care costs in the United States will be attributed to the chronic diseases associated with obesity.

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