Obesity rates hold steady throughout the USA, except for Arkansas, for the first time in 30 years, says a new study - "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2013"1 - from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health.The United States no longer has the highest obesity rates in the world. It is now second to Mexico, according to a report by the FAO2 (Food and Agricultural Organization, United Nations). In that report, published in July 2013, Mexico's adult obesity rate of 32.8% was just above America's 31.8%.
According to the "F as in Fat" report, 13 US states have obesity rates above 30%. Highest rates were found in the Midwest, South and among baby boomers.
In forty-one states, obesity rates are 25% or more. Not one state in America has an obesity rate of 20% or less.
Compared to 1980, when obesity rates of 15% or more did not exist, health care authorities say the present prevalence is far too high, despite the recent encouraging news.
See below how obesity has mushroomed in America over the last three decades:
- 1980 - no state had an obesity rate of 15% or more
- 1991 - no state had an obesity rate of 20% or more
- 2000 - no state had an obesity rate of 25% or more
- 2007 - only Mississippi had an obesity rate above 30%
- 2013 - no state has an obesity rate of 20% or less
- 2013 - 41 states have obesity rates of at least 25%
Arkansas was the only state to report an obesity rate rise
Growth in obesity rates slowing down since 2005
There is clear evidence that the obesity epidemic is losing steam.
Every state except one in 2005 saw obesity rates rise. However, in 2008 rates increased in 37 states, and then 28 states in 2010, and just 16 states in 2011.
Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America's Health, said
"While stable rates of adult obesity may signal prevention efforts are starting to yield some results, the rates remain extremely high. Even if the nation holds steady at the current rates, Baby Boomers - who are aging into obesity-related illnesses - and the rapidly rising numbers of extremely obese Americans are already translating into a cost crisis for the healthcare system and Medicare.
In order to decrease obesity and related costs, we must ensure that policies at every level support healthy choices, and we must focus investments on prevention."
Below are some key findings from the 2013 F as in Fat report:
- Obesity rates vary by region - Pennsylvania is the only non-South/non-Midwest state among the top 20 fattest states.
Louisiana at 34.7% has the highest obesity rate, followed by Mississippi at 34.6%. Mississippi had been America's fattest state for several years.
The slimmest state is Colorado at 20.5%.
- Obesity rates vary according to age group - in Alabama and Louisiana obesity rates among baby boomers (aged 45 to 64) have reached 40%. In 41 states the obesity rates among baby boomers are at least 30%.
Among seniors (65+ years of age), only Louisiana recorded an obesity rate higher than 30%.
Obesity rates among young adults (18 to 25) are less than 28% in every state.
- Obesity rates for men and women have converged - men and women have virtually identical obesity rates today (35.8% and 35.5% respectively). Ten years ago there was a difference of 6 percentage points (women 33.4% - men 27.5%).
Since 2000, male obesity rates have been rising faster.
- Morbid obesity rates have grown significantly - a person with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is obese. People with a BMI of 40 or more are morbidly obese (extremely obese).
Thirty years ago, 1.4% of people were morbidly obese, compared to 6.3% today - a rise of 350%.
Among 2 to 19 year-olds, 5.1% of boys and 4.7% of girls are morbidly obese in America today.
- Obesity rates and people's academic levels - 21.3% of college graduates aged 26 years or more are obese, compared to 35% among their counterparts who did not graduate from high school.
- Obesity rates and socioeconomic status - 25.4% of adults earning $50,000 per year or more are obese today, compared to 31% of people earning less than $25,000.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report - Progress in Childhood Obesity3 - published at the beginning of this month, showed that obesity rates among preschool children from low-income households went down in 18 states and one US territory. In South Dakota, New Jersey, Missouri, Georgia, Florida and the US Virgin Islands obesity rates in that age group fell by at least 1%.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president and CEO, said:
"After decades of unrelenting bad news, we're finally seeing signs of progress. In addition to today's news about the steady rates for adults, we've seen childhood obesity rates declining in cities and states that were among the first to adopt a comprehensive approach to obesity prevention. But no one should believe the nation's work is done. We've learned a lot in the last decade about how to prevent obesity. Now it's time to take that knowledge to scale."
Adult obesity rates, state by state
- Louisiana - 34.7%
- Mississippi - 34.6%
- Arkansas - 34.5%
- West Virginia - 33.8%
- Alabama - 33%
- Oklahoma - 32.2%
- South Carolina - 31.6%
- Indiana - 31.4%
- Kentucky - 31.3%
- Michigan and Tennessee - 31.1%
- Iowa - 30.4%
- Ohio - 30.1%
- Kansas - 29.9%
- North Dakota and Wisconsin - 29.7%
- Missouri and North Carolina - 29.6%
- Texas - 29.2%
- Georgia and Pennsylvania - 29.1%
- Nebraska - 28.6%
- Maine - 28.4%
- Illinois and South Dakota - 28.1%
- Maryland - 27.6%
- Virginia - 27.4%
- New Hampshire and Oregon - 27.3%
- New Mexico - 27.1%
- Delaware - 26.9%
- Idaho and Washington - 26.8%
- Nevada - 26.2%
- Arizona - 26%
- Alaska and Minnesota and Rhode Island - 25.7%
- Connecticut - 25.6%
- Florida - 25.2%
- California - 25%
- New Jersey and Wyoming - 24.6%
- Montana and Utah - 24.3%
- Vermont - 23.7%
- Hawaii and New York - 23.6%
- Massachusetts - 22.9%
- District of Columbia - 21.9%
- Colorado - 20.5%
Flawed gene may drive 1 in 6 people to become obese - scientists from University College London reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that a defective gene affects the production of a hormone that is linked to feelings of fullness.
People who carry a variant of the gene FTO are more likely to overeat, become obese, and show a preference for high-fat, energy-dense foods.