America still has a serious weight problem, but if there is a silver lining to the latest State of Obesity report, it's the obesity problem isn't getting much worse.
The annual report from the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) finds obesity rates increased in Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah but held mostly steady in the rest of the country.
Arkansas has the highest adult obesity rate at 35.9%, while Colorado has the lowest at 21.3%. In three states – Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi – 35% or more of adults are clinically obese., meaning they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
The top 10 states with the highest obesity rates are:
- West Virginia
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
Fairly recent trend
The report drives home how recently this epidemic has occurred. In 1980, no state had an obesity rate above 15%. In 1991, there was no state with an obesity rate above 20%. Today, more than 30% of American adults, nearly 17% of two to 19 year olds and more than 8% of children ages 2 to 5 are obese.
Not just overweight. Obese.
The 78 million Americans who are obese are at increased risk for a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
"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, PhD, executive director of TFAH. "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 authors suggest the best way to reduce obesity rates is to help children maintain a healthy weight. That's best done, they say, promoting good nutrition and physical activity. In that light, a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not encouraging.
Fast food consumption
Its study of caloric intake from fast food between 2011-2012 finds that just over one-third of U.S. children and adolescents consumed fast food on a given day, getting 12.4% of their daily calories from fast food restaurants.
“Consumption of fast food has been linked to weight gain in adult.” the authors write. “Fast food has also been associated with higher caloric intake and poorer diet quality in children and adolescents.”
The CDC report also traces the rise in calories from fast food as a fairly recent trend. It also noted that older children frequent fast food restaurants a lot more than younger children do.