Over half of Americans will be obese in the next 10 years if the nation does not start adopting healthier eating habits, a new study says.
Additionally, one in four Americans will be considered severely obese, meaning they’re more than 100 lbs. overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher.
The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed 26 years of BMI data from over 6.2 million adults who answered survey questions from the Centers for Disease Control.
The results showed that states will have an obesity rate around 60 percent by 2030. Currently, every state is over 35 percent except for two, Colorado and Hawaii. Mississippi, which has the highest obesity rate in the country, is almost at 50 percent.
Researchers said that black, non-Hispanic women with incomes of less than $50,000 a year will be at the highest risk of becoming severely obese.
Zachary Ward, lead author of the study and a programmer/analyst at Harvard Chan School’s Center for Health Decision Science, said that “prevention is going to be key to better managing this epidemic.”
RELATED VIDEO: Strict Doggy Diets (and Some Exercise Too!) Helped These Obese Pups Lose Half Their Weight
Ward also said that the rising rates of obesity could strain Medicaid funding, hurting low-income people who are already at risk.
“The high projected prevalence of severe obesity among low-income adults has substantial implications for future Medicaid costs,” he told the Harvard Gazette. “In addition, the effect of weight stigma could have far-reaching implications for socioeconomic disparities, as severe obesity becomes the most common BMI category among low-income adults in nearly every state.”
Ward said that if Americans are proactive and change their eating habits now, it will be easier to reverse this trend.
“It’s really hard to lose weight,” he 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.”