A Florida Atlantic University researcher is calling the United States the fattest society in the world.
After taking part in a worldwide study that spanned an estimated 40 years, Dr. Charles Hennekens said the results show that Americans are increasingly unhealthy.
"We're likely to be the fattest in the history of the world," Hennekens said. "Unless Americans lose weight and increase physical activity, cardiovascular disease will remain the leading killer."
Hennekens is the first Sir Richard Doll research professor at FAU. Doll, who died in 2005, was the premier epidemiologist of the 20th century.
The Lancet, an international medical journal, posted the results of the study this week. Body mass index numbers were gathered from 900,000 adults in a total of 57 studies.
Body mass index helps estimate a healthy body weight based on how tall a person is. According to the study, the optimal BMI is 22-25, but two-thirds of Americans are above 25 and one-third is above 30. A person with a BMI above 30 reduces their life span by 2-4 years and life spans are reduced 8-10 years for those 35 and higher.
Hennekens said he is particularly worried about the children.
"Young people today are heavier," Hennekens said. "The youngsters will be the first generation in the last 50 years to have a higher mortality rate than their parents."
Dr. Edward Mostel, a cardiologist in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and spokesman for the American Heart Association Palm Beach County Chapter, said nearly 1 in 3 children are overweight nationwide. Lack of exercise and eating oversized portions of unhealthy food are to blame, he said.
"Children should exercise and eat vegetables, fruits and smaller portions," Mostel said, adding he gives the same advice to his adult patients.
"They're really simple changes but they require a change in lifestyle, and people find that extremely hard to do."