A study released Wednesday predicts that almost half of the U.S. will be obese within a decade.
The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that by 2030, about 48.9 percent of Americans will qualify as obese. More than half of Americans in 29 states, mostly in the South and the Midwest, are projected to be obese.
No state is expected to have less than 35 percent of its population qualify as obese.
Severe obesity, or being about 100 pounds overweight, is also expected to skyrocket in the coming decade, to a rate of 25 percent of the population. Twenty-five states are projected to have more than a quarter of their populations reach severe obesity.
Zachary Ward, the lead author and an analyst at Harvard Chan School’s Center for Health Decision Science, told CNN that severe obesity is expected to be the most common body mass index (BMI) category. Currently, 18 percent of adults are severely obese.
The study predicted specific subpopulations to be more at risk for severe obesity, including women, non-Hispanic black adults and low-income adults.
“It’s really hard to lose weight,” Ward told CNN. “It’s really hard to treat obesity. So prevention really has to be at the forefront of efforts to combat this growing epidemic.”
Experts also told CNN that government intervention will be key to combating the obesity epidemic, which they say has been instigated by more sugar-sweetened drinks and unhealthy food being cheaper.
Aviva Must, the chair of public health and community medicine at Tufts University, added that the U.S. cannot just expect “individual behavior change in an environment that is so obesity-promoting.”
“There’s no rosy picture here, but I don’t think we can throw in the towel,” Must told CNN.
The study used data from other national surveys to analyze the self-reported BMI data from 6 million U.S. adults.