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In 12 US states, 30% of adults are obese

14th August 2012

A survey released in the United States has revealed that the country's obesity epidemic has reached staggering proportions, with one in five adults meeting the definition of obesity even in the thinnest states.

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In a state-by-state breakdown of obesity figures released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mississippi scored top of the charts for obesity, with 34.9% of adults there classified as obese.

Fitness-obsessed Colorado, meanwhile, scored the lowest on the scale, with one in five adults there fitting the definition, according to the analysis, which was released ahead of the annual "F as in Fat" report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

A total of 12 US states now have adult obesity rates of more than 30%, with Louisiana and West Virginia occupying the next two places after Mississippi.

Hawaii and Massachusetts came just ahead of Colorado as the second- and third- thinnest states.

For Jeffrey Levy, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, the figures confirm that obesity is one of the biggest public health crises that the US has ever faced.

He said obesity had contributed to a "stunning rise" in chronic disease rates and the costs of healthcare.

Of the 30 states with the highest obesity rates, 26 are in the south and midwest of the country, the report said.

For the purposes of the analysis, obesity was defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. BMI is calculated from a person's weight and height.

In Mississippi, which has topped the obesity charts for the past six years in a row, politicians sought to stave of criticisms that their healthy eating and exercise programmes were not working.

According to Sandra Shelson, executive director of the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, the government plans to continue with the work it is doing, and will step up anti-obesity efforts in future.

She said the problem had taken a long time to emerge, and would not be solved overnight.

State health officials point to a number of programmes which begun in recent years, including promoting access to fresh fruit and vegetables and creating safe places to exercise.

The state has already instructed vendors to put healthier choices into snack machines in state office buildings.

Americans are likely to spend more than US$550 billion over the course of 2012 on obesity-related healthcare, the Trust for America's Health reported.

It called for more decisive government action to curb fat. A mere slowdown in the rise of obesity rates could save the country as much as US$150 billion over the next two decades.

According to Shelson, the aim is not to help people slim down for aesthetic reasons, but to protect and improve on their state of health.


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