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Obesity Rates Are Increasing in 16 States

Study Shows Colorado Has the Lowest Adult Obesity Rate and Mississippi the Highest
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 7, 2011 -- Adult obesity rates increased in 16 states during the past year, and none of the 50 states showed any decline in their rates of obesity, a study shows.

The findings are from the eighth edition of the "F as in Fat" report put out by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Obesity rates have doubled in seven states since 1995 and increased by 90% in 10 other states; 22 states saw obesity rates increase by as much as 80%, the report shows.

The state with the lowest obesity rate today, Colorado, would actually have had the highest rate in 1995, according to the study.

But the report does offer a glimmer of hope: It marks the first time that there were fewer than 20 states with increasing adult obesity rates.

Glimmer of Hope?

From 2006 through 2008, more than 30 states saw increased rates of obesity. During the following two years, the number of states experiencing increases in obesity rates was in the 20s. This year's report showed 16 states with increasing rates of obesity.

"This is a small victory and does not mean we can ease off the gas pedal," said James Marks, MD, MPH, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J., during a teleconference.

This trend may be due to local, state, and federal efforts aimed at making communities more walkable as well as increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.

"We have to assume the glimmer of hope we can identify is due to these actions and many more that are beginning to get traction," he says. "What we hope we are seeing in the decline of the number of states with increasing obesity rates is that these actions are starting to slow the rate of the increase. In the not-too-distant future, we hope you see states turn the corner."

Obesity Rates High in the South

The new report breaks down obesity rates and anti-obesity initiatives by state, regions, and ethnic groups and also documents the rise in obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Nine of 10 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South, while states in the Northeast and West had lower rates, the report shows. Mississippi had the highest adult obesity rates for the seventh year in a row and Colorado had the lowest (less than 20%).

Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate higher than 15%, but today 38 states have obesity rates over 25%. Obesity rates are growing rapidly in Oklahoma, Alabama, and Tennessee and at a slower pace in Washington D.C., Colorado, and Connecticut.

Overall, rates of obesity are highest among members of racial and ethnic minority groups, the study showed. Along with the increase in obesity rates comes a corresponding increase in diseases associated with obesity such as diabetes and high blood pressure.   

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