Japanese women getting thinner as American women become fatter

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    Blaine Harden of the Washington Post reports on how the average weight of Japanese women has been declining:

    “I am quite fat, actually,” said Michie Takagi, a 70-year-old grandmother and retired clothing store executive. She has a body mass index (BMI) of 19.9, which is at the thin end of normal. While the average American woman has gained about 25 pounds over the past 30 years, Takagi has gained 4.5 pounds, typical for her age cohort in Japan, according to U.S. and Japanese government figures.

    Skinnier still are Japanese women younger than 60, who were thin by international standards three decades ago and who, taken as a group, have since been steadily losing weight.

    The trend is most pronounced among women in their 20s. A quarter-century ago, they were twice as likely to be thin as overweight; now they are four times more likely to be thin. For U.S. women of all ages, obesity rates have about doubled since 1980, rising from 17 percent to 35 percent.

    Men and children, however, seem to be gaining weight. The trend among women is explained by social pressure and the media’s promotion of thinness as beauty. There still seems to be some questions about why Japanese women are so easily influenced by what they see in TV and magazines:

    “In the United States, you see all these beautiful skinny people on television, and yet Americans keep getting fatter anyway,” said Sasaki, the public health expert at Tokyo University. “Why is that?”

    [hat tip to Brian]

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