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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Then & Now: Research Pays Off for All Americans
Back to the Future: Slimming Down the Old-Fashioned Way

Fast Facts

According to the NIH:

  • Globally, more than 1 billion adults are overweight, at least 300 million of them obese.
  • An estimated 22 million children under five are overweight.
  • Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) and stroke, and certain forms of cancer.
  • Key causes: increased consumption of energy-dense foods high in saturated fats and sugars, and reduced physical activity.

Photo of a couple from the 60's photo of a couple with their dog

Caption: A couple from the 1960s and a couple from 2002

In an extensive report on overweight and obesity in America, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that average adult Americans are 25 pounds heavier than they were in 1960.

Average Americans: Getting Taller, Heavier

2002 (latest figures)

Height

Weight

Men (20 – 74 years) 5'9.5" 191 pounds
Women (20 – 74 years) 5'4" 164.3 pounds

1960

Height

Weight

Men (20 – 74 years) 5'8" 166 pounds
Women (20 – 74 years) 5'3" 140 pounds
Of course, when it comes to good health, there's nothing like taking a leaf out of someone else's book—as this advice from 1908 clearly shows.

Of course, when it comes to good health, there's nothing like taking a leaf out of someone else's book—as this advice from 1908 clearly shows.
Photo: from Conn HW, Introductory Physiology and Hygiene (Silver, Burdett and Company, 1908)

As this 1892 ad for obesity belts illustrates, Americans have always had a passion for quick fixes

As this 1892 ad for obesity belts illustrates, Americans have always had a passion for quick fixes.
Photo: History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine

But as the latest research demonstrates – and this modern poster from the American Dietetic Association urges – there are no short cuts to losing weight. Educating yourself and your family about obesity, eating right and exercising are the best ways to assure a healthy weight.

But as the latest research demonstrates – and this modern poster from the American Dietetic Association urges – there are no short cuts to losing weight. Educating yourself and your family about obesity, eating right and exercising are the best ways to assure a healthy weight.
Photo: History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine

To Find Out More

For many more images from the history of medicine, visit the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine at www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/.

Spring / Summer 2010 Issue: Volume 5 Number 2 Pages 26 – 27