The statistics on the obesity epidemic read like sci-fi, except that they are real. 36.5% of Americans are obese. Half of U.S. states have obesity rates over 30%. Over 35% of residents are obese in four states--Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi.Childhood obesity is expected to cost taxpayers in Maine,$1.2 billion over the next 20 years, according to a study from the University of Maine. That doesn't count costs for overweight kids or obese or overweight adults. Are you mentally multiplying that by 50 states?

The grand total for obesity alone (not counting folks who are just overweight) is $147 billion to $201 billion per year. a year.

Obesity vs just overweight

Obesity rates are based on BMI mostly--that's body mass index and it's a height to weight ratio. Some BMI calculators factor in age, gender, clothing size and activity level. But that doesn't change the BMI much. People with a BMI over 25 are overweight and those over 30 are obese. 40 and over is morbidly obese. The numbers have been discussed apply only to the obese and don't even look at those in the 25-30 BMI.

But they have health problems too. And there are many more--two-thirds of the U.S. is overweight. In 2012, 17% of kids were obese.

Obesity outweighs smoking as #1 national killer

That is one reason weight problems is so expensive. Another is that there are so doggone many weight-related problems. Even weight loss is expensive. Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, arterial and cardiovascular problems, heart failure, sleep apnea, hypertension, back and leg problems, immobility are just a few.

They require surgeries--bariatric, gastric bypass, skin removal and more. They require expensive medical equipment--breathing apparatus, scooters, walkers, hospital beds, over-sized furniture. They often cannot work and live on government assistance: EBT, Medicaid, welfare benefits, food stamps.

Who pays?

Taxpayers, but also fellow workers cover costs.Obese people cost more because they are sick more often.

They miss work more frequently, costing the employer an extra $506 per obese worker. Employers pass that cost along to employees in reduced insurance benefits and increased healthcare costs. There's also a curious double dipping with obesity-related welfare benefits. Taxpayers pay to feed and then to care for folks when they have overeaten.

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