WASHINGTON — About 20% of the adult population, some 33 million Americans, are significantly overweight, giving the United States one of the highest populations of fat people in the world, an obesity expert said Thursday.
"It's clear that significant obesity appears to be more prevalent in the United States than elsewhere," said Dr. George A. Bray, a professor of medicine at Louisiana State University and a leading researcher in obesity.
Significant obesity is a major health problem only in Europe and North America, and Bray said the problem is more severe in the United States than in Europe.
Why so many American adults are fat is not clear, he said, but the effects are showing up among the obese in the form of more heart attacks, more high blood pressure, more diabetes and more gall bladder disease.
Being extremely fat, said Bray, is only slightly less of a health risk than smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.