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American Stomachs Still Expanding

Update Date: Sep 17, 2014 01:52 AM EDT

The average American potbelly is getting bigger, according to a new study.

Statistics reveal that the prevalence of abdominal obesity and average waist circumference among US adults increased from 1999 to 2012.

The rate of abdominal obesity has increased in the US through 2008. However, the cause behind the ever-expanding American waistline is unknown.

After using data from seven 2-year cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found that the overall age-adjusted average waist circumference increased gradually and significantly, from 37.6 inches in 1999-2000 to 38.8 inches in 2011-2012.

Researchers noted that significant increases in waist circumference were seen in men (0.8 inch), women (1.5 inch), non-Hispanic whites (1.2 inch), non­Hispanic blacks (1.6 inch), and Mexican Americans (1.8 inch).

The study also revealed that the prevalence of abdominal obesity increased significantly from 46.4 percent in 1999-2000 to 54.2 percent in 2011-2012.

Lead researcher Earl S. Ford, M.D., M.P.H., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues, said the findings are important as previous studies did not find significant changes in obesity rates between 2003 to 2012. Researchers noted that previous studies used body mass index as opposed to waist circumference.

"In contrast, our analyses using data from the same surveys indicate that the prevalence of abdominal obesity is still increasing. The reasons for increases in waist circumference in excess of what would be expected from changes in BMI remain speculative, but several factors, including sleep deprivation, endocrine disruptors, and certain medications, have been proposed as potential explanations," Ford and his team wrote in the study, according to a journal release.

"Our results support the routine measurement of waist circumference in clinical care consistent with current recommendations as a key step in initiating the prevention, control, and management of obesity among patients," they concluded.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA.  

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