Obesity epidemic slowing? What new poll says

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CBS
CBS

(CBS) Is America's obesity epidemic slowing? A new poll found there more normal-weight Americans than overweight ones for the first time in more than three years.

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Don't get too excited, though - the Gallup and Healthways poll still showed almost 62 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.

"Although the majority of Americans are still overweight or obese, it is an encouraging sign that obesity rates are trending downward in the U.S. and among demographic subgroups," Elizabeth Mendes, deputy managing editor at Gallup, said in a written statement.

For the poll, researchers randomly telephoned more than 90,000 Americans between July 1st - Sept. 30, 2011. The pollsters asked about their height and weight to determine body mass index (BMI), as well as age, gender, ethnicity, education, and income. 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."

The poll found that 36.6 percent of Americans are of normal weight, and 35.8 percent are overweight.

The poll also showed obesity rates declined slightly among Blacks (from 36 percent in 2010 to 35.4 percent in 2011), Hispanics (from 28.2 to 27.4 percent), and Whites (25.4 to 24.8 percent). Asians, however, saw an uptick in obesity rates from last year's report, from 8.2 percent obese to 11.5 percent.

Income also played a role in obesity rates: Only 21 percent of people whose annual income was over $90,000 were obese, while 30.3 percent of people who make less than $36,000 are obese.

Both men and women reported declines in their obesity rates as well, but obese men still outnumber obese women 27.7 percent to 24.6 percent, respectively.

The polls' authors say several factors may contribute to the nation's smaller waistlines, including more public awareness efforts from the government and many businesses. During the past year, First Lady Michelle Obama launched her "Let's Move!" campaign to curb childhood obesity, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled a new food plate to replace the much-maligned pyramid, but the authors say it's difficult to determine the effect of these programs since they're still fairly new. The authors also said the crummy economy might be causing more Americans to eat at home rather than dining out at restaurants which typically offer more caloric fare.

But the authors said that the declining rates might also be due in part to the steady drumbeat of obesity-related news appearing in the media. So if you'd like to say thanks to the media, your friends at HealthPop have three words to say to you:

You're welcome, America.