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D.iet & H.ealth : B.ody W.eight Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00


Adult obesity rates worsened in 31 states last year
By Kathy Jones
Aug 30, 2006, 15:56

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30 Aug, (foodconsumer.org) - A growing proportion of American adults are battling obesity even as 31 states registered an increase in adult obesity rates last year, a report by the Trust for America's Health said yesterday. Americans continue to grow fat despite increased effort by state and federal governments to curb the crisis.

The report, titled F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing America, 2006 said that an estimated two-thirds of American adults are clinically obese. This means that their risk of suffering from fatal diseases such as diabetes, stroke and cancer increases exponentially.

Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia recorded the highest increases in obesity rates, while Colorado, Hawaii and Massachusetts registered lower increases in obesity rates.

The report is based on an analysis of a state-by-state telephone survey conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control in which 350,000 respondents were asked about their height, weight and other information.

"The obesity epidemic in America is getting worse," said Jeffrey Levi, the group's executive director. "Every state needs to do much better." He added that more than a quarter adults in 13 states were obese. This data of expanding waistlines is alarming, Levi said, adding that the key to tackle obesity lay in providing better information to the public.

"If we're urging people to walk more, and their streets are not safe, that's an unrealistic expectation," he said. "If we're urging people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and they don't have access to a supermarket or the cost is beyond their capacity, then we're not asking them to take responsibility for something they have control over."

Last year Nevada was the only state to actually report a decrease in obesity levels.

The data is this report adds to the concern that American is fast turning into a fat nation. The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which was conducted during 2003-2004 found that 32 percent of US adults were obese in 2003 and a further 34 percent were overweight.

It is likely that most of these people from the overweight category in 2003-04 moved to the obese category in 2005.

In Mississippi 29.5 percent adults were considered obese. Obesity rates remained the same in 18 states and Washington, D.C, while nine of the 10 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South.

At this rate, Colorado is the only state with 16.5 percent obese adults, which can expect to meet the national goal of reducing adult obesity levels to 15 percent or less by the year 2010.

Kansas, where 23.9 percent are obese is the median state. Half the number of states about it have high obesity rates, while the lower half have the least obesity rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a 5-foot-10-inch adult of either sex is classed as overweight if he/she crosses 174 pounds and obese at 209 pounds. Obesity is measured as a function of body mass index, or BMI, a ratio calculated using weight and height. A person with a BMI higher than 30 is generally considered obese

The percentage of Americans who are overweight or obese has been on a steady rise over the last 25 years. Sedentary lifestyle practices are the main reason behind this problem, which has been termed as an epidemic by the World Health Organization.

Obesity brings with it a lot of associated problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that being obese in midlife increased the risk of dying early by 4o to 50 percent.

A measure of how obesity is acquiring nightmarish proportions for Americans can be assessed by the fact that people today have lesser life expectancies than their parents despite the latest medical advances. States have tried many methods to control the bulge, but have failed comprehensively, the Trust For America's Health report said.

"The 2004 and 2005 documents reported that there was no strategic policy to address obesity," Levi said. "The 2006 report shows little improvement. While there are innovative promising pilot programs under way in some parts of the country, for the most part, federal and state policies are limited in scope, designed for the short term and woefully underfunded."

The report also found that West Virginia has the highest rate of type 2 diabetes among adults at 10.4 percent, while Alaska has the lowest rate at 4.5 percent. Type 2 diabetes is caused mainly by obesity.

All states except South Dakota have school physical education requirements, while 44 states plus Washington, D.C., have school health education requirements. But the report said that there is little or no enforcement of these rules.

Cathy Nonas, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association said that all initiatives to tackle obesity have failed. "The perfect example of this is the physical-education and health-education requirements, where states have very little ability to enforce it. It's good that people are doing this, but it's not enough."

The report makes several recommendations for decreasing obesity calling it the a 20-step action plan. Some important recommendations include improved nutritional labeling on foods and the provision to encourage employers to provide time and facilities for exercise.

"Food, beverage, and marketing industry initiatives that improve nutritional labeling practices, such as nutritional labels based on product size instead of serving size." Schools should enforce existing guidelines for physical fitness and improve nutrition in school lunch programs, the report added.




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