U.S. Obesity Epidemic Continues to Spread07/07/11
THURSDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- A new report outlining how
obesity threatens America's future reveals that obesity rates
climbed over the past year in 16 states, and not a single state
reported a decline in the proportion of excessively overweight
The report, released Thursday, also found that more than 30
percent of the people in 12 states are obese. Four years ago, only
one state could make that claim.
Twenty years ago, "there wasn't a single state that had an
obesity rate above 15 percent, and now every state is above that,"
said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health,
which compiled the report.
"We have seen a dramatic shift over a generation," he added. "This isn't just about how much people weigh, but it has to do with serious health problems like diabetes and hypertension. These are the things that are driving health care costs."
With the exception of Michigan, the 10 most obese states are in
the South. The Northeast and West reported the lowest obesity
rates. In addition, in eight states, more than 10 percent of adults
suffer from type 2 diabetes, according to the report.
Mississippi, where 34.4 percent of the people are obese, has the
highest obesity rate. Other states with obesity rates above 30
percent include: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan,
Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West
Virginia. Thirty-eight other states have obesity rates above 25
For the second year in a row, obesity rates rose in Illinois,
Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Rhode Island and Texas.
And, for the third year straight, more residents of Florida,
Kansas, Maine, Oklahoma and Vermont tipped the scale toward
Colorado, with an obesity rate of 19.8 percent, is the only
state where the rate is less than 20 percent, the investigators
Other highlights of the report include:
- The number of adults who do not exercise rose across 14
- Obesity among men is up in nine states, but dropped for women
- Obesity prevalence varies with education and income. The least
educated and the poorest had the highest rates of obesity; college
graduates had the lowest.
More than one-third of children and adolescents are obese or
overweight, with the highest prevalence in the South. However, the
new data indicate that obesity among children and adolescents may
have leveled off, except among the heaviest boys.
"This generation of kids could have shorter life spans, because people are getting diabetes and hypertension much earlier," Levi said.
The solution is simple, he added: Eat less, exercise more. "We
have reconstructed our lives so that we don't build in physical
activity. We have neighborhoods and communities that are food
deserts, where the only food you can find is unhealthy fast food,"
Samantha Heller, a dietitian in Fairfield, Conn., called
childhood obesity "a complex, multi-faceted problem that needs to
be tackled from many different angles." She said she wished the
report offered ways to educate parents and caregivers about healthy
eating for children.
Parents and caregivers make approximately 75 percent of the food
decisions for children, Heller said, so it is essential that they
learn about healthy, affordable foods and meals for children that
make sense to them.
"Overall, I am hopeful that the report will help motivate food companies, local and state governments, schools and communities to generate a good head of steam to help stem the tide of childhood obesity," she added.
Obesity expert Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention
Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven,
Conn., called the report "a reminder that obesity ranks among the
most urgent public health problems of our time. While efforts to
reverse obesity trends are proliferating, the tide has not yet
turned, and more needs to be done."
The report makes it clear that interventions need to be tailored
to diverse settings, Katz added. "I support the view that the root
cause of epidemic obesity is everything about modern living, and
that it will take the aggregation of a lot of effective programming
to change our course," he said.
Levi noted that the federal government was introducing programs
to stem the obesity crisis, but "we need to fund these programs
adequately," he said.
"We now know the pieces that need to be put into place [to reduce obesity]," he added. "Some of them are about what we as individuals do, but a lot of it is also about what we as a community come together to do," Levi stated.
For more information on obesity, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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