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Male and Female Obesity

By Jay Schwartz ; Updated July 18, 2017

Obesity has become a greater problem in the United States during the past 30 years, according to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The growing problem could foreshadow more long-term health and lifespan problems. Obesity affects males and females in different ways because they have different natural body types and body fat percentages.


The body mass index (BMI) became the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) standard for obesity in 1985, according to "Beyond BMI," a Slate online magazine article. The BMI measures body fat by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared, then multiplying that number by 703. You are considered obese if your BMI is 30 or above, overweight if it's 25 to 29.9 and normal if it's 18.5 to 24.9.


Female obesity rates have risen faster than male obesity rates. In 2007 and 2008, 35.5 percent of women and 32.2 percent of men who were at least 20 years old were obese, according to a CDC survey. The CDC has estimated the average BMI of Americans six times since 1960. It reported that the percentage of obese Americans has more than doubled since 1980. Men had higher average BMIs from 1960 to 1994, and women's average BMIs surpassed men's in the 1999 to 2002 survey.


Female obesity rates may be higher than male obesity rates because many women, particularly non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women, are "satisfied with their body size," according to the CDC. The 2007 to 2008 survey also concluded that non-Hispanic black and Hispanic populations have higher percentages of obese men and women than the non-Hispanic white population because they exercise less and are less likely to live near stores with healthy food.

Healthy Weight

Obesity statistics don't differentiate between the weight of muscle mass and healthy body fat and the weight of unhealthy body fat. Men have "roughly twice the percentage of muscle mass" than women, according to the "An Invitation to Health" textbook. Women's "obesity," on the other hand, is caused partly by healthy body fat in their hips and thighs, while men's body fat is more apt to be unhealthy body fat in their stomach and waist. The average woman has 27 percent body fat; the average man 15 percent.


Obesity increases your risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and stroke, according to the Weight Control Information Network, which describes itself as "the federal government's lead agency responsible for biomedical research on nutrition and obesity." Obesity also is a risk factor in breast cancer, breathing problems, colorectal cancer, gallbladder disease, high cholesterol, kidney cancer, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, menstrual irregularities, osteoarthritis, pregnancy complications, sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes.

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