Obesity Rate in U.S. Still Climbing

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter
Monday, August 27, 2007; 12:00 AM

MONDAY, Aug. 27 (HealthDay News) -- More and more Americans are sliding into obesity, a clear signal that this national health problem is getting worse.

According to the fourth annual report prepared by the research group Trust for America's Health and released Monday, adult obesity rates rose in 31 states last year, 22 states experienced an increase for the second year in a row, and no state had a rate decrease.

A related public opinion survey found that 85 percent of Americans now believe that obesity is an epidemic.

For the third year in a row, Mississippi topped the scales with the highest rate of adult obesity in the country. It also has the dubious distinction of being the first state to record a rate higher than 30 percent (30.6 percent), according to the report,F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America, 2007.

Colorado was again the thinnest state, but even its adult obesity rate increased over the past year, from 16.9 percent to 17.6 percent.

"Despite increased attention to the obesity epidemic, obesity is continuing to grow in America," Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, said at a news conference Monday. "While some promising policy efforts are under way, the nation still lacks comprehensive, effective strategies for addressing this serious health crisis."

Dr. James Marks, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the project, was bleaker in his assessment of the findings at the news conference.

"We find this report to be a devastating indictment. We're in the middle of a public health crisis that is still deteriorating rapidly, and we're treating it like a mere inconvenience rather than the emergency it is. Over the past year, obesity rates got worse in nearly two-thirds of states and got better in zero. That is not progress. The number of states with obesity rates greater than 25 percent has more than doubled in just two years. That's not sending a wake-up call. We're ringing the disaster alarm," he said.

The existence of an obesity epidemic in this country is not news, but the rapidity with which Americans' waistlines are expanding is unprecedented. Obesity lurks behind several serious illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

According to the new report, rates of adult obesity exceed 25 percent in 19 states, up from 14 states last year and 9 in 2005. In 1991, no state had an adult obesity rate exceeding 20 percent.

The South is a locus of the problem, possessing 10 of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity. In addition, the South also had eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of overweight children (aged 10 to 17).

According to Levi, the South had higher levels of type 2 diabetes and hypertension and lower levels of reported physical activity. Mississippi had the highest rate of adult inactivity, at 31.6 percent; Minnesota the lowest at 15.4 percent. In the nation overall, 22 percent of adults reported that they do not engage in any physical activity.


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