Man walking
As the obesity epidemic continues to escalate, a new study projects that half of the U.S. will be obese by 2030 unless measures to stifle, monitor and prevent obesity are adopted into public policy. REUTERS

America is getting fatter: Half of all men and women in the United States could be obese in 20 years, according to a study by the Journal Lancet and reported by the Los Angeles Times. This could lead to 65 million more Americans being classified as obese.

Between 2007 and 2008, 32 percent of men were obese in the United States, while 35 percent of women hit the obesity benchmark. Using 20 years of Body Mass Index data, the researchers note that approximately 50 percent of men could reach obesity and between 45 and 52 percent of women could reach that point.

An individual is defined when a person is at least 20 percent heavier than his or her ideal weight, according to WebMd. The figure is calculated by a person BMI, which takes into account height, weight, age and sex to determine a person's ideal weight. Figures could be thrown off by a person's muscle tone -- a muscular football player could be considered obese, for example.

What could the rise in obesity mean? An increase in obesity could mean 8 million more cases of diabetes, 500,000-plus cases of cancer and 6.8 million cases of coronary heart disease in the U.S., the Times reports.

The ever-expanding waistlines could lead to higher healthcare costs, the study notes. The researchers predict a $66 rise in annual costs to treat obesity related issues. Recently, emphasis has been placed on preventative measures to bring down obesity rates. For example, many employer-provided health insurance programs allow people to join gyms for a discounted rate, and will lower insurance rates for those who lose weight.

Of course, many factors could play a role in determining whether these statistics come to fruition. With rising food costs as of recently, it is more difficult for lower-income Americans to gain access to healthy food. Other factors that could play a role include medical advances and agricultural policies.