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US Losing the Battle of the Bulge: Report

by VR Sreeraman on July 2, 2009 at 2:31 PM
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 US Losing the Battle of the Bulge: Report

The United States is losing its battle against bulging waistlines, with two-thirds of Americans now overweight or obese, according to an annual report released Wednesday.

In the past year, nearly half of the 50 US states saw obesity rates rise and no state saw a fall in the number of people who were obese, according to the sixth annual "F as in Fat" report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Obesity is defined as having a body mass index -- calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by his or her height squared in meters -- greater than 30.

"The country will never be able to contain rates of chronic diseases and health care costs until we find ways to keep Americans healthier," the report says, pinning more than a quarter of health care costs in the United States on problems linked to obesity.
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According to the report, health care costs attributable to Americans' expanding girths are projected to more than double every decade, possibly reaching 956 billion dollars a year by 2030.

That would mean obesity would account for one in six dollars spent on health care.

The report also cited other research, which found that obese workers had more than 10 times the number of lost workdays than normal-weight workers -- nearly 184 lost workdays per 100 full-time obese employees over a one-year period, versus 14 lost workdays per 100 full-time normal-weight employees.

The southern state of Mississippi held onto the dubious distinction of being the fattest state for the fifth year in a row, with nearly one in three adults and a staggering 44 percent of children aged 10-17 suffering from obesity, the report showed.

"Mississippi also continues to have the highest rate of physical inactivity and hypertension, and has the second highest rate of diabetes," the report said.

Diabetes alone accounts for 11 percent of all US health care costs, according to the report.

Obesity rates in 31 states exceeded 25 percent, and only in the state of Colorado was the percentage of adults who are obese lower than 20 percent.

But even in Colorado, known as the Rocky Mountain state and prized for its outdoor lifestyle, obesity crept up from 18.4 to 18.7 percent.

In 1980, the average of obese adults across the United States was 15 percent.

The report blames the upward trend on a number of factors, including the fact that Americans consume an average of 300 more calories per day than they did 25 years ago, eat less nutritious foods, and jump into the car even for trips of less than one mile (1.6 kilometers) instead of walking.

Meanwhile, the percentage of obese and overweight children aged 10-17 was at or above 30 percent in 30 states, the report said. In no state was childhood obesity lower than 20 percent.

The worrying trend among children is blamed on poor diet, unsafe or poorly maintained outdoor spaces, and too much time spent in front of the television, computer or games console -- activities that also eat into the time that kids could be active.

Obese children are at higher risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, and they are more likely to become obese adults, who are at risk from the very same health problems.

"The childhood obesity epidemic is putting today's youth on course to potentially be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents," the report said.

It urged action on the national, state and community levels to fight obesity, but warned that the United States was way off target to meet a goal set by the Department of Health and Human Services of slicing the obesity rate in all 50 states to 15 percent by next year.

"Clearly that goal will not be met," the report said.

Source: AFP
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