Federal government data released last week revealed that nearly 40 percent of American adults are obese, significantly increasing their risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and various cancers.

Defined as a body mass index of 30 or more, obesity has become a major public health concern.

“Over the most recent decade between 2007-2008 and 2015-2016, increases in obesity and severe obesity prevalence persisted among adults, whereas there were no overall significant trends among youth,” read a study recently published in the scientific journal JAMA.

The incidence of obesity has increased sharply among adults from just over a decade ago, when the rate of obesity was less than 34 percent. Attempts to raise awareness regarding harmful eating habits and poor diet have not curbed the trend, concerning experts.

“Most people know that being overweight or obese is unhealthy, and if you eat too much that contributes to being overweight,” Dr. James Krieger, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Washington and executive director of Healthy Food America, an advocacy group, told The New York Times. “But just telling people there’s a problem doesn’t solve it.”

The obesity rate among adult women has slightly surpassed 40 percent, whereas among men, it remains at approximately 38 percent. Severe obesity, which is defined as a body mass index of 40 or more, is also increasing in the adult population, rising by 2 percent and reaching 7.7 percent overall. Prior to 2007, approximately 5.7 percent of the adult population was severely obese.

The rate of obesity in youth increased slightly, rising from 16.8 percent in 2007-2008 to 18.5 percent in 2015-2016. Dr. Craig Hales, co-author of the research, noted that the minor increase “could be due to sampling error.”

The increase in obesity among children ages two to five was more startling, with the condition rising from 10.1 percent before 2007, to 13.9 percent in 2016.

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