Fried chicken, fried okra and other fried cliches of US southern cuisine may be making their mark: a new study Tuesday shows that rates of obesity are highest in the US south.
Just about one of every three adults in Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia and Alabama is considered obese, based on a calculation of their weight and height, according to the analysis by non-profits Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, using government figures.
In all, 12 states were found to have adult obesity rates in excess of 30 percent, all in the southern and the midwestern regions of the county.
The leanest states tended to be in the northeast and the southwest — with outdoorsy mountain-state Colorado coming lowest on the obesity ranking.
But even in the thinner states, at least one of every five adults was found to be obese.
“Obesity has contributed to a stunning rise in chronic disease rates and health care costs,” said TFAH director Jeffrey Levi in a statement, adding that “it is one of the biggest health crises the country has ever faced.”
He said there is growing evidence that “making healthier choices easier for Americans” can help people lose weight, eat better and become more active, but he said the US needs to invest more in health-positive initiatives “in order to bend the obesity curve.”
Some health experts, however, criticize efforts that equate improving health with lowering weight. They say it is possible to be extremely fit and also “overweight” by societal norms.
Critics also note that the body-mass index, used to measure obesity across the population, does not take into consideration important factors like muscle mass, which can mean some very fit people — including some Olympic athletes — register as “obese.”
The analysis was based on a telephone survey by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, where respondents were asked, among other questions, their height and weight. For the first time this year, people with only cell phones were included in the survey.
Those with a body-mass index greater than 30 were ranked as obese. A normal BMI is typically considered 18.5 to 24.9.