Such a rise would hike up health care costs— an additional $66 billion per year would be spent on obesity-related diseases, the researchers said. Spending would increase by 13 to 16 percent per year over the two decades.
That level of obesity would mean 7.8 million more cases of diabetes, along with 6.8 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and 539,000 more cancer cases than what would be expected if obesity remained at its current level.
Currently, around one-third, or 33 percent of Americans are obese. Close to 26 million Americans have diabetes, and 79 million have prediabetes, or an abnormally high blood sugar level.
To avoid this increase, even a small decrease in body mass index (BMI) across the population would help, the researchers said. For example, if everyone reduced their BMI by 1 percent (the equivalent of losing about 2 pounds for a 200 pound person), this could prevent 2.05 million to 2.4 million diabetes cases, 1.4 million to 1.7 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and 73,000 to 127,000 cancer cases, the researchers said. This weight reduction could be achieved by eating 20 fewer calories per day for three years, they said.
“We hope that our dire predictions will serve to mobilize efforts to reduce obesity so that our predictions do not become reality,” the researchers wrote in a paper to be published Aug. 27 in the journal the Lancet.
To make their estimates, the researchers examined trends in U.S. BMIs between 1998 and 2008, and projected these trends into the future. The study was conducted by researchers at Columbia University in New York and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.