Obesity is defined as abnormal or excessive body fat that may impair health. Obesity is measured by your body mass index (BMI) which is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. Over one third of Americans today are considered obese. Obesity can lead to a host of other serious diseases such as diabetes, multiple types of cancer, and stroke. While obesity and several of its associated diseases are common to men and women, important differences between men and women exist when it comes to the development and manifestation of obesity and its associated outcomes.

Numbers and Statistics

  • Among Americans age 20 and older, 1 in every 4 men and 1 in every 4 women is obese.
  • In 2014, 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight.
  • By race/ethnicity and sex, the obesity prevalence is higher for non-Hispanic blacks [38% of men and 54% of women].

Sex and Gender Differences

  • Women typically have a higher proportion of body fat than men, despite consuming fewer calories on average.
  • The mean percentage of body fat for women of normal weight is similar to the percentage of body fat of men who are classified as obese. This difference can be seen from birth through puberty and into adulthood.
  • Obesity in girls is associated with early puberty.
  • Obesity in women may be attributable to experiences unique to women such as pregnancy and menopause.
  • Women experience significantly more negative social and psychological effects from obesity than men and tend to report worsening quality of life as obesity increases.

Research Update: 2015

  • Greater intake of fruit, but not vegetables or fiber, by middle-aged and older women with a normal body mass index (BMI) at baseline is associated with lower risk of becoming overweight or obese.

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