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Mississippi fattest, Colorado thinnest in new federal obesity statistics

August 13, 2012|By Mary MacVean, Los Angeles Times
  • The U.S. government has released its "obesity map."
The U.S. government has released its "obesity map." (Visko Hatfield / HBO )

Ready for this one? Americans are fat. More accurate, Americans are still fat.

The federal government released its “obesity map” on Monday, outlining the rates of obesity and how rates in the states compare. Colorado gets the svelte bragging rights, with 20.7% of its adults obese. At the other end of the scale is Mississippi, with a rate of 34.9%.

California had a rate of 23.8%. The CDC has published all the states’ figures.

The South had the highest prevalence of obesity – with several states among the 12 that are in the over-30% category: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Overall, the rate for the South was 29.5%, followed by the Midwest at 29%, the Northeast at 25.3% and the West at 24.3%.

The figures are based on data from what’s called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The figures can’t be compared with previous years because of changes in methodology. One of those changes was to include households without landline phones, only cellphones. The CDC says the changes were intended to make the figures more accurate.

But the agency says its measures are one of several ways rates of obesity are monitored in this country, and it notes that whichever is used, “the obesity epidemic is still a major public health problem.”

For example, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that more than a third of adults and almost 17% of young people were obese in 2009-10.

“Obesity has contributed to a stunning rise in chronic disease rates and healthcare costs. It is one of the biggest health crises the country has ever faced,” Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health, said in a statement. “The good news is that we have a growing body of evidence and approaches that we know can help reduce obesity, improve nutrition and increase physical activity based on making healthier choices easier for Americans. The bad news is we’re not investing anywhere near what we need to in order to bend the obesity curve and see the returns in terms of health and savings.”

Later this summer, Lev's group and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are expected to release a report analyzing the rates and the policy efforts to curb obesity.

In 2006, obesity-related medical costs totaled $147 billion a year, or nearly 10% of total medical spending, according to a 2011 study in Health Affairs

Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine outlined ways to reverse obesity, including a commitment to making physical activity a more integrated part of life, creating food environments that encourage healthful choices and making schools a focus of the efforts.

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