Mississippi most obese state, Colorado least

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2011 10:13 AM
Mississippi most obese state, Colorado least

By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The number of obese U.S. adults rose in 16 states in the last year, helping to push obesity rates in a dozen states above 30 percent, according to a report released on Thursday.

By that measure, Mississippi is the fattest state in the union with an adult obesity rate of 34.4 percent. Colorado is the least obese -- with a rate of 19.8 percent -- and the only state with an adult obesity rate below 20 percent, according to "F as in Fat," an annual report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Obesity rates did not decline in any state and even Colorado does not win high marks -- its score means one in five state residents is at higher risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

"Today, the state with the lowest adult obesity rate would have had the highest rate in 1995," said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health.

Four years ago, only one U.S. state had an adult obesity rate above 30 percent, according to the report, which defines adult obesity as a having a body mass index -- a weight-to-height ratio -- of 30 or more.

Public health experts around the world have raised the alarm about exploding rates of obesity and many are promoting efforts that increase physical activity and encourage access to affordable, healthy food.

In the United States -- where two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children are obese or overweight -- the obesity epidemic is sending healthcare costs higher and threatening everything from worker productivity to military recruitment.

"Changing policies is an important way to provide children and families with vital resources and opportunities to make healthier choices easier in their day-to-day lives," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, chief executive of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Some groups say such behavioral initiatives are not enough, arguing that food manufacturers and restaurant chains need limits on how they market to children.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a U.S. consumer group, last year sued McDonald's Corp to stop the world's largest hamburger chain from using Happy Meal toys to lure children into its restaurants. Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics -- a group of U.S. pediatricians -- called for a ban on junk food ads aimed at children.

Industry is fighting such efforts.

The report released on Thursday showed that over the past 15 years, seven states have doubled their rate of obesity and 10 states have doubled their rate of diabetes.

Since 1995, obesity rates have risen fastest in Oklahoma, Alabama and Tennessee, while Colorado, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., had the slowest increases.

Adults from racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as those with less education and lower incomes, continue to have the highest overall obesity rates.

(Editing by Michele Gershberg and Mohammad Zargham)