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Americans are getting FATTER and FATTER


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Research group: Americans getting fatter and fatter
Trust for America's Health says Mississippi has worst adult obesity rate, not much higher than Island
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
By TEVAH PLATT
ADVANCE STAFF WRITER
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- America just keeps getting bigger.

Obesity rates continued to climb in 31 states last year; no state showed a decline, according to the Trust for America's Health, a disease prevention research group.

Measured state by state, New York had the 10th-lowest rate of adult obesity in the nation.

But it also ranked among the weightiest 20 states in a study of children aged 10 to 17.

Mississippi became the first state to crack the 30 percent barrier for adult residents considered to be obese, according to figures released in the organization's fourth annual report, "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2007."

Compared against city Health Department figures, Mississippi's exceptional girth-rate is not too much higher than Staten Island's own.

Staten Island, the fattest borough in the city, weighed in with an adult obesity rate of 26.6 percent when the city agency conducted its 2004 Community Health Survey. Among Island men, the borough measured wider yet. Their 30.8 percent obesity rate, charted in 2004, is yet higher than the 30.6 mark that broke the record in Mississippi this year.

BODY MASS INDEX

Overall, the city survey found more than half of adult New Yorkers to be overweight or obese, as defined by a person's body mass index, a figure based on weight and adjusted for height.

The new nation-wide report deemed Colorado, again, as the leanest state in the country, with an obesity rate projected at 17.6 percent

This year's report looked at children's weight, as reported by parents to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a 2003-04 telephone survey. The District of Columbia had the highest percentage -- 22.8 percent-- and Utah kids ranked slimmest-- with a rate of 8.5 percent.

Because the data for adults and children is culled from personal estimates, some believe the figures are conservative.

Health officials say the latest state rankings provide evidence that the nation has a public health crisis on its hands.

"There has been a breakthrough in terms of drawing attention to the obesity epidemic," said Trust for America's Health Executive Director Jeff Levi, in a statement released to the press yesterday. "Now, we need a breakthrough in terms of policies and results. Poor nutrition and physical inactivity are robbing America of our health and productivity."

Officials at the Trust for America's Health advocate for the government to play a larger role in preventing obesity. People who are overweight are at an increased risk for diabetes, heart problems and other chronic diseases that contribute to greater health care costs.

Methods for measuring obesity rates vary from study to study, so results aren't always consistent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study last year noting a national obesity rate of about 32 percent-- a higher rate than was cited for any of the states in the Trust for America's Health report. The CDC's estimate came from weighing people rather than relying on telephone interviews, officials explained.

Generally, anyone with a body mass index greater than 30 is considered obese. The overweight range is 25 to 29.9. "Normal" is 18.5 to 24.9. People with a large amount of lean muscle mass, such as athletes, can show a large body mass index without having an unhealthy level of fat.

A lack of exercise is a huge factor in obesity rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found last year that more than 22 percent of Americans had not engaged in any physical activity in the past month. The percentage is greater than 30 percent in four states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Meanwhile, Minnesotans led the way when it came to exercise--yet the state ranked 28th overall when it came to the percentage of obese adults.

Another factor in obesity rates is poverty. The five poorest states were all in the top 10 when it came to obesity rates. An exception to that rule were the District of Columbia and New Mexico. Both had high poverty rates, but also one of the better obesity rates among adults.

Officials said the report is designed not to stigmatize states with high obesity rates but to stir them to action. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS material was used in this report.

Tevah Platt is a news reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at platt@siadvance.com.

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