Gallup Poll: ‘Normal weight’ outnumber ‘overweight’ in U.S.

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Americans every day and in every way seem to be enlisting in the battle of the bulge, and for the first time in three years, they appear to be winning, according to a Gallup Poll released Friday. Or so they say.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 36.6% of Americans are of a normal weight, compared with 35.8% who are overweight. The trend lines have been playing tag since Healthways began tracking the fat factor in January 2008, but the latest finding is the first time ‘normal’ beat out ‘overweight.’

That’s not to say that normal-weight Americans are in the majority, because there are other categories to be considered. The survey found that 61.6% of Americans were in the categories of either ‘overweight’ or ‘obese,’ supplying plenty of fodder for the multibillion-dollar industry designed to combat fat.

Weight has long been an important health and social issue. First Lady Michelle Obama has made fighting childhood obesity and promoting healthful eating her priorities. The issue of weight helped turn New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie into the butt of late-night television comics and overshadowed his presidential ambitions.


Denmark has imposed a tax on saturated fats and foods containing them, and other European governments are studying a similar tax, as a way of forcing people to trim down, which is necessary to cut healthcare costs.

The latest survey findings are encouraging, but it’s unclear whether they are a trend or just temporary.

There is also the problem, inherent in all survey data but especially acute in this subject area, about whether respondents are telling the truth.

The latest survey is based on respondents’ reports of their weight and height, which are then used to calculate their body mass index (BMI) scores. Individual BMI values of 30 or higher are classified as “obese,” 25.0 to 29.9 are “overweight,” 18.5 to 24.9 are “normal weight,” and 18.4 or less are “underweight.”

African Americans, the middle-aged and those with low incomes continue to be the groups most likely to be far too plump, according to the survey data, which cover three quarters of 2011. Those with annual incomes of $36,000 to $89,999 had the biggest drop in obesity, a full percentage point from 2008. Asians showed the biggest gain, 3.3 percentage points, in obesity from 2008.

Survey results are based on telephone interviews from July 1 to Sept. 30, using a random sample of 90,070 adults, and a similar number in previous quarters. The overall margin of error is plus or minus one percentage point, though the margin of error increases among the subgroups to a maximum of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.


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