Expanding waistlines will cost the U.S. $344 billion

If the waistlines of Americans continue to expand, the U.S. will fork out about $344 billion in medical-related expenses by 2018. That will use up about 21% of health care spending, according to the first analysis that examines just how heavy the price tag of being overweight is.

The projections accompany another startling could-be statistic: in 10 years 43% of American adults -- more than four out of every 10 -- will be obese.

This report comes as the country struggles to find ways to curb medical costs and Congress debates health care legislation.

"Obesity is going to be a leading driver in rising health-care costs," said Reed Tuckson of United Health Foundation, sponsor of the report with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention. "There is a tsunami of chronic preventable disease about to be unleashed into our medical-care system which is increasingly unaffordable."

Using weight data, Census statistics and medical expenditure information, Tuckson's report found:

•An obese person will have an average of $8,315 in medical bills a year in 2018 compared with $5,855 for an adult at a healthy weight. That's a difference of $2,460.

•If the percentage of obese adults doesn't change but stays at the current rate of 34%, then excess weight will cost the nation about $198 billion by 2018.

•If the obesity rate continues to rise until 2018, then Colorado may be the only state with less than 30% of residents who are obese.

•More than 50% of the population in several states could be obese by 2018: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio and South Dakota.
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