Here is a story that won’t help dispel the stereotype that America is the fattest nation ever. Obesity rates climbed at least 90 percent in over 15 states from 1995 to last year, according to a report called F is for Fat published by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood johnson Foundation.
Nine of the ten states with the highest obesity rates are located in South, with Mississippi leading the way at 34.4%, followed by Alabama and West Virginia, respectively. Remember, West Virginia was the first state that British chef Jamie Oliver tried to exploit for ratings on his now-cancelled Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Not coincidentally, those aforementioned states also lead the nation in high blood pressure and diabetes.
The report highlights the strain obesity related illnesses place on public health providers, Medicare and Medicaid. Even though the authors called for the government to continue to fund programs that help combat these food-related conditions, they were silent on the impact the 1970’s Green Revolution has had on the doubling of serving sizes and the abundance of cheap subsidized corn, soy, wheat, and factory-farmed meat.
In a Boston Globe story, Harvard School of Public Health professor Steven Gortmaker feels that the food industry’s practices are contributing to the obesity epidemic. Gortmaker laments:
“It’s gotten easier and easier to consume lots of foods at more times of the day,’’ he said in a telephone interview. “That’s been the biggest shift in the last 20 years.’’
The surveyors have dubbed a stretch of 644 counties in 15 states throughout the Southern United States as the “diabetes belt.” Meanwhile, Colorado, the slimmest state with a 19.8 percent obesity rate, had the second-smallest rise since 1995, though it’s rate is still higher than Mississippi’s was at that time, according to the study.
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30. While the West Coast may have lower obesity number than the South, it’s nothing to brag about when 1 and 4 Californians are considered obese. And this is in a state that has the most robust fitness industry in the country.
Obesity is disproportionately affecting the poor, disenfranchised, people of color, and African American women. Obesity rates were over 40% in 15 states for African Americans and 30% in 23 states for Latinos. Conversely, among white adults, obesity rates were never higher than 32% in any state.