U.S. obesity epidemic at standstill, CDC says

(CBS/AP) America's obesity problem is proving just as hard to get rid of as a set of love handles.

More than one-third of adults and almost 17 percent of children were obese in 2009-2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. Those numbers are no different than they were in 2003.

"It's good that we didn't see increases," said CDC researcher Cynthia Ogden. "On the other hand, we didn't see any decreases in any group."

Early in the decade, slight increases in obesity rates were seen among white, black and Hispanic men, and among Hispanic and black women. These changes may be leveling off, but the authors said they "found no indication that the prevalence of obesity is declining in any group."

The CDC found that more than 78 million adults and almost 13 million children ages 2 to 19 are obese.

"We're plateauing at an unacceptably high prevalence rate," said Dr. David Ludwig, director of an obesity prevention center at Children's Hospital Boston.

The CDC reports - both of which are published online in the Jan 17. issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association - summarize results of national health surveys in children and adults, which are conducted every two years. These surveys include in-person weight and height measurements. The 2009-2010 reports involved nearly 6,000 adults and about 4,000 children, from infancy through age 19.

Dr. Elbert Huang, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago who studies health care policy issues, said his research shows that even if obesity rates continue to remain stable, there will be dramatic increases down the road in diabetes and in costs linked with that disease. That's because type 2 diabetes, among many diseases linked with obesity, becomes more prevalent as people age.

As far as being overweight but not obese - that is, having a body-mass index between 25 and 29, versus the obese BMI of at least 30 - the report showed rates were also high. Overall, 33 percent of adults were overweight but not obese, versus about 15 percent of children and teens. The government says a healthy weight is a BMI of between 18 and 25.