Obesity Still a Big Problem in the U.S.


Most people would probably hazard a guess that Americans eating habits have probably improved over the past decade. After all, defying age and disease has become a high-profile subject in the media. Its also turned into a multi-billion-dollar business. Trying to eat well and exercise are age-old solutions to keeping healthy, however. Its surprising, then, to find that obesity rates are still rising in the U.S.

According to a recent study, the rates of adult obesity increased in 23 states during the past year and did not decrease in any state. And the percentage of obese and overweight children has now climbed to 30% in 30 states. This is troubling news given that an obese child may suffer decades of weight-related health problems such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as he or she grows into adulthood.

Dont think a little extra weight is that big of a deal? According to the study authors, obesity is harming the health of millions of Americans and resulting in billions of additional dollars in healthcare costs. About one-quarter of health costs are related to obesity. Obesity is also one of the biggest contributors to chronic diseases.

For the fifth year in a row, Mississippi has found itself at the top of the list as the state with the highest rate of adult obesity, at 32.5%. West Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee also have obesity rates above 30%. Eight of the 10 states with the highest number of obese adults are in the South. Which state rated the lowest? Colorado measured in at a trimmer 18.9%.

In 31 states, obesity rates exceed 25%, and in 49 states and Washington, D.C., the rates are above 20%. What do all these percentages mean? Two-thirds of the U.S. population is now obese or overweight, according to the report. And, as recently as 1991, no state had an adult obesity rate higher than 20%; in 1980, just 15% of adults were obese. The rate of childhood obesity has tripled since 1980.

The research team is worried that the current economic crisis could make the obesity epidemic worse. Food costs for nutritious foods are expected to rise. On the other side of the coin, the numbers of Americans struggling with depression, anxiety and stress are increasing. These three health concerns often contribute to obesity.

One theory about why obesity is such an epidemic goes like this: throughout almost all of human history, calories have been relatively scarce and hard to get, and physical activity an unavoidable part of survival. We now live in a modern world in which physical activity is significantly reduced, and calories are unavoidable. As a result, humans may be living in an environment totally at odds with their physiology.

The researchers recommend increasing the number of programs in communities that make nutritious foods more affordable and accessible, and providing safe places for people to get physical activity.

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