The 1990 National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES III)revealed that the increase in the incidence of obesity in the United States over the past decade was at epidemic proportions. Currently,approximately 34% of the adult population in the United States is defined as obese, which translates to about 65 to 75 million adults. One decade ago only 25% of the adult population was obese. This survey showed that children are experiencing the same rapid increase in the incidence of obesity as adults. When body mass index is used to define obesity in children, 22%of the pediatric population (6 to 19 years old) is above the 85th percentile, which defines them as being overweight. This percentage has increased from 15% a decade ago. Preschool-age children have a similar incidence, according to at least one other survey.

If so many people are obese, should we consider obesity a variant of normal rather than...

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