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12-07-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

US obesity epidemic continues to grow

Abstract

Full report [pdf]

MedWire News: Adult obesity rates in the USA have increased in 16 states over the past year, and have nearly doubled in 17 states since 1995, according to a report from the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

"Obesity is one of the most challenging health crises the country has ever faced," write executive director of TFAH, Jeffrey Levi, and colleagues. "Two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and teens are currently obese or overweight, putting them at increased risk for more than 20 major diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

The report, entitled F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011, aims to "raise awareness, drive action, identify solutions, and reverse the epidemic."

According to the authors, who examined obesity trends between 2008 and 2010, obesity rates rose in 16 states, with 12 states having obesity rates above 30%, and two-thirds of states (38) exceeding 25%. No state showed a decrease in obesity rates.

Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity, at 34.4%, while Colorado had the lowest rate at 19.8%. Of note, Colorado was the only state with a rate below 20%.

Levi and co-authors report that obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, are highest in the South. Indeed, except for Michigan, the top 10 most obese states in the USA were in the South.

In the report, TFAH and RWJF make several recommendations to address the obesity epidemic, many emphasizing that helping children and their parents is of great importance.

"As a country, it's up to us to make sure we get our children off to a healthy start in life, and investing in our children is an investment in our future," they say.

The report states that all foods and beverages served and sold in schools should meet or exceed the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and that youth's exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods should be reduced.

The time, intensity, and duration of physical activity should be increased, they say, and this could be addressed by improving the "built environment" in communities.

Other recommendations arising from the report include increasing access to high-quality, affordable foods, and using pricing strategies - both incentives and disincentives - to promote the purchase of healthier foods.

The authors conclude: "While it's up to individuals to do their best to keep themselves and their families healthy, creating healthy policies can help people engage in the healthy behaviors we need to see to reverse the nation's obesity epidemic."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers

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