Overweight and obesity in the United States has increased markedly over the past decade. According to NHANES III data, approximately fifty-five percent of adults (or an estimated 97 million adults) in the United States are overweight or obese, a condition that substantially raises their risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and other diseases. Higher body weights are also associated with increases in all causes of mortality. Obese individuals may also suffer from social stigmatization and discrimination.
While there is agreement about the health risks of overweight and obesity, there is less agreement about their management. Some have argued against treating obesity because of the difficulty in maintaining long-term weight loss and of potentially negative consequences of the frequently seen pattern of weight cycling in obese subjects. Others argue that the potential hazards of treatment do not outweigh the known hazards of being obese.
To consider these issues, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Obesity Education Initiative in cooperation with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases convened the Expert Panel on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults in May 1995.