Two-thirds of American adults comprise the excessively overweight population, and a major overhaul of US policies, from schools to restaurants to urban planning, is crucial to stem the epidemic, medical experts said on Tuesday.
In a hefty, 400-plus page report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called for urgent action to reverse national obesity trends that are costing the US $190.2 billion a year in illness-related costs.
Peppered with phrases like "synergies" and "systems approach," the report called for a renewed focus on schools as the place where eating habits take hold for life, noting that about one-third of US children are currently overweight or obese.
Offering lunches packed with veggies and whole grains and limiting access to sugar-sweetened drinks were among the recommendations for kids age six to 18.
States and local schools should also make sure all children and teenagers have the opportunity for 60 minutes of exercise per day, said the report titled "Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of a Nation."
Other top goals for all ages included making physical activity a daily routine, making healthy food and drink choices widely available, and expanding the role of doctors, insurers and employers.
"Because obesity is such a complex and stubborn problem, a bold, sustained and comprehensive approach is needed," said the report.
"Action must occur at all levels -- individual, family, community, and the broader society."
The IOM report reviewed past strategies for obesity prevention in order to come up with new recommendations to speed progress, it said.
"Left unchecked, obesity's effects on health, health care costs, and our productivity as a nation could become catastrophic," added the report.
Separate research presented Monday at a related conference on obesity in the US capital warned that 42 percent of US adults could be obese by 2030, and the number of severely obese people could more than double from five to 11 percent.