If obesity trends continue, by 2030 nearly half of all Americans will be obese, say authors of a report published in The Lancet (2011; 378, 815–25). The researchers used a “simulation model” to predict health and economic outcomes associated with growing waistlines in the United States and the United Kingdom. “These trends project 65 million more obese adults in the U.S. and 11 million more obese adults in the U.K. by 2030, consequently accruing an additional 6–8.5 million cases of diabetes, 5.7–7.3 million cases of heart disease and stroke, 492,000–669,000 additional cases of cancer, and 26–55 million quality-adjusted life years forgone for the U.S. and U.K. combined,” the authors reported. Further, they estimated that treatment for preventable diseases will increase by $48 billion–$65 billion per year in the United States and £1.9 billion–£2 billion in the United Kingdom. The authors urge that these staggering estimates be used to spur increased awareness and focus on prevention measures. “A systematic understanding of the potential morbidity and cost implications of specified hypothetical changes in body mass index trajectories, driven by policy changes or otherwise, is crucial for formation of effective and cost-effective strategies, establishment of research and funding priorities, and creation of the political will to address the obesity epidemic.”

The “Health and Economic Burden of the Projected Industry Trends in the USA and UK” report can be read in its entirety at www.thelancet.com.