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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Obesity

CHENJERAI KUMANYIKA

Clemson University, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs185

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States define obesity as “ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height.” The term also identifies ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems. Common scientific criteria for obesity include a body mass index (BMI) (measurement of the relationship between weight and height) over 30 or a percentage of body fat over 24 percent for men and 31 percent for women. Other methods of estimating body fat and body fat distribution include measurements of skinfold thickness and waist circumference, calculation of waist-to-hip circumference ratios, and techniques such as ultrasound, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). According to the CDC, more than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults in the United States are obese. According to the World Health Organization, 11 percent of adults worldwide aged 20 and over were obese in 2008.

The first documented usages of the term “obesity” date back to the early seventeenth century; however, obesity scholars argue that the concept of obesity in some form existed even for prehistoric humans. The word derives from the Latin obesus (nominative), and obesitas meaning “having eaten to a state of corpulence.”

In addition to the strict scientific definition denoting the condition ...

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