The nation’s obesity epidemic continues to grow, led by an alarming increase among women. For the first time, more than 4 in 10 U.S. women are obese, according to new government health statistics.

Obesity rates for men and women in the U.S. had been roughly the same for about a decade. But in recent years, women have surged ahead and now just over 40 percent of women are obese, compared to 35 percent of men.

The percentages were reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in two articles published online Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The numbers are based on small government survey that is considered the best measure of the nation’s obesity problem.

Though it is not altogether surprising to health researchers because the nation has long been growing more obese, it is “scary” that the statistic has reached 40 percent for women, said Dana Hunnes, a dietitian who sees obese patients at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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