Obesity Rates Remain High in the U.S.

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Every state in the U.S. has an obesity rate that’s over 20%—and many are well over that, a new report found.

The “State of Obesity” report, published by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that the U.S. adult obesity rate remained high in 2014, and 23 out of the 25 states with the highest rates are in the South or Midwest.

In Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi, the adult obesity rate exceeds 35%, the report shows. In addition, 22 states have an obesity rate that’s above 30% and 45 states are above 25%. The state with the highest percentage of obese adults was Arkansas at 35.9% and Colorado had the lowest rate at 21.3%. That’s still a major increase from the 6.9% adult obesity rate in Colorado in 1990.

The report also underlines racial differences among obese adults nationwide. Overall, adult obesity rates in the U.S. are 38% higher among black people compared to white people and 26% higher among Latinos compared to white people. The report shows that in 14 states the obesity rate among black men and women is at or above 40%.

The rates also increase with age, with a rate of 30% among 20-to-39-year-olds and close to 40% among 40-to-59-year-old adults.

“Efforts to prevent and reduce obesity over the past decade have made a difference. Stabilizing rates is an accomplishment. However, given the continued high rates, it isn’t time to celebrate,” said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of TFAH, in a statement. “We’ve learned that if we invest in effective programs, we can see signs of progress. But, we still haven’t invested enough to really tip the scales yet.”

The report defines obesity as an “excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass.” The report uses body mass index (BMI) as a measurement, which is the ratio of person’s height to weight. Adults with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese.

Obesity puts 78 million Americans at a higher risk for other health complications like diabetes and heart disease, the authors say. They argue that creating healthy communities, by implementing strategies like improved school nutrition and physical activity interventions, can help people live better lifestyles. Preventing obesity among children is also easier and key to reversing trends.


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