The Latest Word on The Fat of the Land

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

America is still gaining weight.

Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia are the three states with the highest rates of obesity, according to a new report by the nonprofit advocacy group Trust for America's Health. In all three states, nearly three of every 10 adults tip the scales with a body mass index of 30 or higher, a measure that accounts for both height and weight.

It's further evidence that obesity is a growing problem, said the authors of "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America."

"The obesity epidemic in America is getting worse," said Jeffrey Levi, the group's executive director. "Every state needs to do much better."

The problem is especially acute in the South, home to nine of the 10 states with the highest obesity rates, Levi said. The least obese states were Colorado, where 16.9 percent of adults are obese, Hawaii (18.2 percent) and Massachusetts (18.6 percent). Kansas, where 23.9 percent are obese, was the median state -- meaning half of the states had higher obesity rates and half had lower.

Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other health problems. The group's recommendations include more government-funded research to help shape effective obesity-prevention programs, better nutrition and physical education standards in schools, and more wellness programs in corporate workplaces.

The report is based on an analysis of a state-by-state telephone survey conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control in which 350,000 respondents were asked about their height, weight and other information. The survey's margin of error was plus or minus less than three percentage points in every state.

-- Christopher Lee

© 2006 The Washington Post Company