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US obesity rates rise again

28th August 2007

More and more people in the United States are becoming obese, a new report has shown.

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The fourth annual report from the Trust for America's Health was released this week, and showed clearly that obesity is worsening as a public health problem.

Adult obesity rose in 31 states in 2006. No state has so far shown a decline in obesity figures, while 22 states showed an increase for the second year in a row.

According to a recent public opinion poll, 85% of Americans now believe the problem has reached epidemic proportions.

Mississippi was the fattest state, with the highest rate of adult obesity for the third year in a row, with 30.6% of the adult population weighing in as obese.

The report, entitled F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America, 2007, found that people were thinnest in Colorado, although even that state clocked an increase in adult obesity to 17.6% compared with 16.9% in the previous year.

Increased attention to the problem of obesity had failed to prevent the problem from growing, according to Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health.

While some promising policy efforts were under way, the nation still lacked comprehensive, effective strategies for addressing the crisis, Levi told a news conference.

Dr. James Marks, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation which funded the project, said the report constituted a devastating indictment of public health policy.

He said the number of states with obestity rates greater than 25% had more than doubled in just two years, characterising the problem as more of a disaster than an inconvenience.

Obesity has been linked to several serious illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

According to the new report, rates of adult obesity exceeded 25% in 19 states, compared with 14 states in 2006, and nine in 2005. In 1991, no state had an adult obesity rate exceeding 20%.

Ten of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity are in the south of the country. The South was also home to eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of overweight children (aged 10 to 17).

The region has also reported higher levels of type 2 diabetes and hypertension, together with lower levels of reported physical activity. Mississippi had the highest rate of adult inactivity, where 31.6% of adults take no exercise at all. In fitness-conscious Minnesota, that number was just 15.4%.

Nationwide, 22% of adults said that they did not engage in any physical activity.

In the capital, Washington DC, meanwhile, 22.8% of children were obese, compared with 8.5% in Utah. Nationwide, the US is home to around 25 million overweight or obese children, the report said.

Diseases that used to be considered adult illnesses like type 2 and high blood pressure are becoming increasingly common among children, experts say, meaning that the current generation may be the first in US history to sicken and die more easily than their parents.


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