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Obesity in the US. Photo supplied

Americans are winning in the obesity stakes

The Americans are true winners in at least one category: Obesity levels have reached nearly 40 percent in parts of the United States.

Published: September 16, 2019, 11:07 am

    Six states (Iowa, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina) even saw significant increases in adult obesity rates between 2016 and 2017.

    A shocking new map showed that in nine US states – Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia – adult obesity is at or above 35 percent.

    In West Virginia and Mississippi it is almost 40 percent, according to data from the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity in an adult is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and above.

    According to the CDC, obesity is costing the American health care system over $147 billion per year. Also, and not surprisingly, research shows that being overweight affects work productivity and military readiness.

    Only three states have obesity levels under 25 percent, and none have less than 20 percent.

    Colorado, Hawaii and the District of Columbia are the “healthiest”. The US capital of Washington is in the District of Columbia (DC), which is a federal district, and not a state. There are fifty states in the US.

    Former First Lady, Michelle Obama had tried to address growing childhood obesity, but her campaign was a failure. No state has had a drop in its obesity rate in the past five years.

    This second study from the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC showed that 39,6 percent of US adults age 20 and older were obese as of 2015-2016 (37,9 percent for men and 41,1 percent for women).

    John Auerbach, president and CEO of the Trust for America’s Health, said: “These latest data shout that our national obesity crisis is getting worse. Almost 50 years into the upward curve of obesity rates we haven’t yet found the right mix of programs to stop the epidemic.

    “Isolated programs and calls for lifestyle changes aren’t enough.

    “Instead, our report highlights the fundamental changes that are needed in the social and economic conditions that make it challenging for people to eat healthy foods and get sufficient exercise.”

    According to the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, adult obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in seven states, 30 percent in 29 states and 25 percent in 48 states.

    With the latest data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showing that 39,6 percent of adults and 18,5 percent of children ages 2 to 19 in America have obesity, the State of Obesity report noted that “these are the highest rates ever documented by NHANES”.

    Current figures are even more startling when considering that no US state had an adult obesity rate higher than 15 percent in 1985 and no state was above 20 percent in 2000.

    Obesity rates are higher among Latinos (47 percent) and African Americans (46,8 percent) than among whites (37,9 percent), and women are also more likely to have severe obesity compared to men, with 9,7 percent versus 5,6 percent.

    Adults with higher incomes are less likely to be obese. The obesity rate is 29,7 percent among those making 400 percent or more above the federal poverty line; the rate is 42,6 percent for those at 100 to 199 percent of the federal poverty line.

    The United States has the 17th-highest overall mean Body Mass Index in the world (28.8 kg/m²). The Pacific islands are home to nine of the top 10 countries for obesity globally. Rates of obesity range from 35 percent to 50 percent in the region and one in five children are estimated to be obese.

    The reason for this sad state of health in Micronesia, is because of US influence on 2 000 Pacific islands, that has remained strong. The 1945 United Nations Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands and 1986 Compact of Free Association (COFA) established the United States as a significant donor in Micronesia, and culpable of exacerbating poor diets in these developing nations.

    It has contributed to the sharp increase in the islands’ obesity rates over the past 40 years.

    But elsewhere, the United States has perpetuated the obesity pandemic with addictive foods: The North American Free Trade Agreement, for instance, has increased high-fructose corn syrup exports to Mexico by more than 1 000 percent between 1996 and 2012.

    Seventeen soda companies, additionally, have focused on calories per capita sold in Brazil and China while obesity rates in those countries continue to soar. US expansion continue to create health consequences not only in Micronesia, but worldwide.


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