More than 22% of U.S. Adults Obese, Study Finds
About 22.7% of U.S. adults were obese -- or had a body mass index of 30 or more -- between 2002 and 2004, compared with 22% between 2001 and 2003, according to a study released on Tuesday by Trust for America's Health, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Freking, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 8/23). The study analyzed data from the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which includes self-reported information on health factors obtained through state-by-state telephone interviews (Hellmich, USA Today, 8/24).
According to the study, obesity rates among adults increased in all states except Oregon, where the rate remained the same. In 12 states -- Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and South Carolina -- obesity rates exceeded 25% of the adult population, the study found. Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity among adults at 29.5%, and Colorado had the lowest rate at 16.8%, the study found. Other states with obesity rates among adults lower than 20% included Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and Montana, according to the study. The study did not include Hawaii (McNeil, New York Times, 8/24).
The study estimated that about 119 million U.S. adults, or 64.5% of the population, are overweight or obese (Goldstein, Miami Herald, 8/24). According to the study, treatment of medical conditions related to obesity cost taxpayers $39 billion in 2003 (New York Times, 8/24).
Shelley Hearne, executive director of Trust for America's Health, said that the federal government should work to ensure land-use patterns promote physical activity, school lunch programs provide more nutritious meals and Medicaid beneficiaries receive access to subsidized fitness programs, such as aerobics at the local YMCA.
In addition, she recommended mandatory obesity tests for all Medicaid beneficiaries, as well as counseling on nutrition. According to the study, "Better prevention and disease management programs will result in cost savings to the system as a whole" (Freking, AP/Seattle Times, 8/23).
Study co-author Parris Glendening, president of the Smart Growth Leadership Institute and former Democratic Maryland governor, said, the South "is leading the nation in the increase in obesity and is going to suffer dramatically in its health as a result" (Dart, Cox/Chicago Tribune, 8/24).
Hearne said, "Bulging waistlines are growing, and it's going to cost taxpayers more dollars, regardless of where you live" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 8/23). She added, "We have a crisis of poor nutrition and physical inactivity in the U.S., and it's time we dealt with it" (AP/Seattle Times, 8/23).
However, Radley Balko, a senior policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said, "What you eat and how much you exercise are very private matters. If government starts getting into the business of trying to regulate our pants size, I can't think of anything left that wouldn't be in the government's purview" (Miami Herald, 8/24).
Michael Link, a senior survey methodologist at CDC, criticized the Trust for America's Health study, which he said "is not a valid statistical comparison" because sample sizes varied between states. He added, "The bottom line is there is some difference between the top states and the bottom, but many states are almost identical in their obesity rates, so ranking them is essentially worthless from a statistical point of view" (USA Today, 8/24). The study is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study.