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More than 45% of Californians may be obese by 2030, report says

September 18, 2012|by Jon Bardin | Los Angeles Times
  • A new report says that 45% of Californians may be obese by 2030.
A new report says that 45% of Californians may be obese by 2030. (Justin Sullivan )

If you think America is fat now, just wait 20 years.

So says a state-by-state projection of the nation's future obesity rates that has arrived at some terrifying results: By 2030, every state in the nation may well have obesity rates above 44%, with most having rates above 50%.

The report, produced by two nonprofit public health advocacy groups, projects that Mississippi will continue to lead the nation, with a whopping 66% of its population projected to be obese in 2030, up from 35%.

Even Colorado, that bastion of fitness perennially sitting at the bottom of the state-by-state obesity rankings, is projected to continue getting fatter, with 45% of its population qualifying as obese by 2030.

In California, the obesity rates are expected to rise from 23.8% to 46.6%, a near doubling.

The authors of the report argue that this path will lead to huge increases in cases of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and strokes. In California, healthcare costs are projected to rise by 16% due to obesity alone.

And across the country, the report projects, the costs of preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion per year over the next 20 years. Even more money will be lost due to hits to economic productivity caused by obesity and obesity-related diseases.

But the report is not all doom and gloom. The authors also project what would be saved if residents of every state lost, on average, just 5% of their body weight -- in other words, if Americans succeeded in partially reversing the trend many have called irreversible. In California, the authors argue, such a change would save almost $82 billion and prevent about 800,000 cases of diabetes alone.

You can see an interactive map showing this effect in every state here.

Any report such as this one, which attempts to use the past to predict the future, must be taken for what it is: A best guess based on the data at hand. And while the data do show that adult obesity rates have continued to rise, there is some promising recent data from children.

In Mississippi, for example, a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation actually shows decreasing rates of childhood obesity between 2005 and 2011, which was attributed in part to a school system more focused on nutrition. And a nationwide Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that obesity rates in children leveled off between 2008 and 2010.

In other words, it's not too late to turn things around.

The report was co-produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America's Health. It was conducted by the National Heart Forum using a model published recently in the academic journal The Lancet.

You can read the full report here.

Return to the Booster Shots blog.

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