HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Saturday, July 19, 2008

U.S. Hits Weight Marker: 1 in 4 Officially Obese

The Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post report on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's newest study regarding American obesity.  Mississippi remains the most obese state.  Deborah L. Shelton, Judith Graham and Robert Mitchum for the Chicago Tribune write,

Weight_chart2Americans, who have been getting fatter for decades, reached an unwelcome milestone in a report released Thursday: More than one in four of us are obese.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of adults who say they are obese jumped 2 percent between 2005 and 2007—from 23.9 percent in 2005 to 25.6 percent in 2007. That doesn't include people who are overweight.

A different CDC survey—a gold-standard project in which researchers actually weigh and measure survey respondents—put the adult obesity rate at 33 percent for adult men and 35 percent for adult women in 2005 and 2006.

Weight_chart "It's alarming," said Dr. Robert Kushner, professor of medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and an expert on obesity, fitness and lifestyle. "As a country, it means we have a whole population of individuals developing increased risk for chronic illness—diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer. All of these are related to obesity."

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (a measure of weight related to height) of 30 or more. For a 5 foot, 4 inch tall person, that means carrying an extra 30 pounds.

In Illinois, 24.9 percent of adults were obese in 2007, up from 24.3 percent in 2005. That compares to about 10 to 14 percent of adults in the state in 1990. As a region, the Midwest (25.3 percent) stands just behind the South (27 percent) as housing the most obese adults in the U.S.

The CDC findings, published in Thursday's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, provided the latest state-by-state data from the agency's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

The fact that rates differ by state suggests that environment plays a major role, said Dr. David Shoham, assistant professor of preventive medicine and epidemiology at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine. Environmental factors include lack of affordable, healthy foods and safe places to exercise.

Oak Park resident Stephanie Salas, 36, has struggled with obesity her entire life.

Salas grew up eating convenience foods and watching TV. Her brother has struggled with his weight and has been diagnosed with diabetes.

"I had tried absolutely everything—every fad diet, everything in a pill, everything in a bottle, everything off the TV—and nothing worked," Salas said.

At University of Illinois at Chicago, Salas met with a team of health professionals who helped her get her weight under control. She lost 80 pounds over the last year through diet and exercise and other lifestyle changes.

"I truly have become a different person, physically, mentally and spiritually," Salas said. "I'm not depressed, and I don't feel sorry for myself any more."

Click here to read the Washington Post's article: "Mississippi remains most obese state, CDC reports"

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