Obesity Epidemic In America

Jean-marie - July 15 2010, 7:56 AM

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Obesity in America 2010
Where does your state rank when it comes to obesity?

By Maia Szalavitz for MSN Health & Fitness
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Although childhood obesity appears to be stabilizing, adult obesity is continuing its relentless rise, according to a new analysis of government statistics.

Influenced, perhaps, by the example of our svelte president and his wife who head a campaign against childhood obesity, Washington, D.C. was the only area in the country to show a decline in the proportion of obese adults.

In contrast, 28 states continued the decades-long weight gain. Two thirds of Americans are now either overweight (defined as a body-mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher) or obese (A 30-plus BMI).

The new report, "F as in Fat," was issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America's Health--and contains policy recommendations, aimed primarily at coordinating the government's response to the epidemic.

"The movement to reverse the epidemic is gathering force but we are not yet seeing measurable improvement," said James Marks, MD, Senior Vice President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, "At the national level, it looks like the rise in childhood obesity has leveled off. We're hopeful that these first signs will be sustained or that we will start to see the numbers turn downwards."

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The rise of obesity has been stunningly rapid.

As recently as 1980, just 15 percent of adults were heavy enough to be defined as obese.

By 2008, however, the rate had hit 34 percent.

Although some experts dispute the causes of the change, with nearly 10% of health costs linked to obesity, no one disputes that it is a public health crisis.

State Obesity Rates for Adults

1. Mississippi 33.8%
2. Alabama 31.6%
3. Tennessee 31.6%
4. West Virginia 31.3%
5. Louisiana 31.2%
6. Oklahoma 30.6%
7. Kentucky 30.5%
8. Arkansas 30.1%
9. South Carolina 29.9%
10. North Carolina 29.4%
10. Michigan 29.4%
12. Missouri 29.3%
13. Ohio 29.0%
13. Texas 29.0%
15. South Dakota 28.5%
16. Kansas 28.2%
17. Pennsylvania 28.1%
17. Georgia 28.1%
17. Indiana 28.1%
20. Delaware 27.9%
21. North Dakota 27.7%
22. Iowa 27.6%
23. Nebraska 27.3%
24. Alaska 26.9%
24. Wisconsin 26.9%
26. Illinois 26.6%
26. Maryland 26.6%
28. Washington 26.3%
29. Maine 25.8%
29. Arizona 25.8%
31. Nevada 25.6%
32. Virginia 25.5%
32. Minnesota 25.5%
32. New Mexico 25.5%
35. New Hampshire 25.4%
36. New York 25.1%
36. Florida 25.1%
36. Idaho 25.1%
39. Oregon 25.0%
39. Wyoming 25.0%
41. California 24.4%
42. New Jersey 23.9%
43. Montana 23.5%
44. Utah 23.2%
45. Rhode Island 22.9%
46. Vermont 22.8%
47. Hawaii 22.6%
48. Massachusetts 21.7%
49. D.C. 21.5%
50. Connecticut 21.4%
51. Colorado 19.1%

The report revealed these key findings:

For the sixth year in a row, Mississippi topped the scales.

A 33.8 percent rate of adult obesity made the Magnolia state the worst in the nation.

Tied for second were Alabama and Tennessee, followed respectively by West Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansas and South Carolina.

North Carolina tied the only Northern state to make the top ten--Michigan--for tenth place in terms of highest levels of adult obesity, with a rate of 29.4 percent.

Mississippi was also worst for obesity among children aged 10-17, with a whopping 21.9 percent of children being seriously overweight.

Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arkansas were all in the top ten for childhood as well as adult obesity--but Oklahoma, Michigan, and the Carolinas were replaced here by Illinois, Texas, Georgia and, oddly, Washington, D.C.
The states who fared best on adult obesity are concentrated in the north and west, with Colorado, Connecticut and Washington D.C. leading the pack, followed by Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Utah, Montana and New Jersey.

While it may seem unusual that D.C. would be in the top ten best places for adult obesity and ten worst for children, because it is really a city not a state, it's hard to make truly reliable comparisons.

"The problem is really terrible in every state," says Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director, of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University who authored a section of the report, "It's not as if the south has rampant obesity that doesn't exist anywhere else."

Adds Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University "States with the highest obesity rates are in the rural south where poverty, especially rural poverty, is a huge problem."

High levels of poverty and low levels of education are linked with obesity across the U.S. For example, Mississippi is also the poorest state in America and ranks in the bottom ten in educational spending as well. When unemployment rises, obesity can soon follow because cutting back on expenses often means cutting the healthier, more expensive foods and people also turn to junk food to relieve stress.

"The states with lowest rates are in areas with lots of outdoor recreation areas but also where the population is better educated and wealthier," says Nestle.

There is one hint of good news in the report: for most ages, childhood obesity levels have been stable since 1999--but they quadrupled in 6-11 year olds and tripled in teens since 1970 and remain at an unacceptable all time high of 17 percent nationally.

The most hopeful signs are seen among the youngest children, says Marks, noting that some groups of 2-5 year olds are even showing a decline.

CONTINUED: Efforts against childhood obesity

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