The cost of obesity in the US

OSTON, Massachusetts (AFP) - Obesity -- which affects one in every three Americans -- and the illnesses associated with it cost the United States some 90.7 billion dollars a year in health care costs, a University of Pennsylvania researcher said.

Among developed countries, the United States has the most obese and overweight people, representing 66 percent of its overall population.

Costs tied to excess pounds (or kilograms) account for 5.04 percent of all US health care costs

The calculations by Professor Adam Gilden Tsai of the University of Pennsylvania, presented at a conference on obesity here Saturday, are based on a comparison of 30 previous studies on the cost of obesity for the US health care system.

An obese person racks up an additional 1,034 dollars (or 40 percent) in health care costs for doctors' visits, medications and medical procedures compared with a person of average weight.

For someone who is overweight but not yet obese, the medical bills amount to 273 dollars more a year, or 9.3 percent more than those of an average-weight person.

And obese patients over the age of 65 pay an additional 2,511 dollars in medical bills.

Obesity often leads to other conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Other studies sought to determine whether gastric bypass surgery and similar procedures were "a good investment for health plans."

Such operations generally cost between 15,000 and 25,000 dollars and are not covered by most health insurance plans, according to Derek Brown of North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.

Although the financial benefits of such procedures are less evident in the short term, Brown said, they are actually more economical over the course of seven years in terms of medical savings.