Report: Obesity in America at 'historic' levels
A brand new report is shedding light on the increasing rates of obesity in America.
The data, released in the State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report on Thursday by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH), singles out proposed policy and legislative changes that may help the rising number of people considered obese.
According to the report, one in three Americans is considered obese.
Between the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2015– 2016) and the 1988–1994 survey, there has been an extraordinary increase in the adult obesity rate of more than 70 percent and an increase in a childhood obesity rate of 85 percent.
TFAH defines obesity in the report as an individual with a Body Mass Index of 30 or above.
The report said that as of the latest data in 2016, nearly 40 percent of American adults are considered obese. 18.5% of children and teens are reported as obese.
New 2018 data from the Behavioral RiskFactor Surveillance System (BRFSS) show that adult obesity rates across the United States are continuing to climb. In 2018, nine states had adult obesity rates above 35 percent—including Kentucky, Missouri, and North Dakota for the first time—and more than half of adults in every state were either overweight or had obesity.
According to the report, Ohio ranked 17th in the nation with an adult obesity rate of 34 percent. Pennsylvania ties for 25th.
West Virginia and Mississippi tied for the states with the highest obesity rates while Colorado had the lowest rates.
But while obesity rates have reached an all-time high for the nation as a whole, the report says that certain racial groups have been hit harder by obesity.
The report indicates that obesity rates are higher in certain populations where social and economic conditions contribute to persistent health inequities—almost half of Latino (47 percent) and African American (46.8 percent) adults had obesity in 2015–2016, which is 24 percent higher than Caucasians (37.9 percent).
Ohio has the second-highest obesity rates for Latinos.
Also, the report points to the fact that women are more likely than men to be obese.
TFAH points to the existence of food deserts and food swamps as a portion of the problem.
More than 23 million Americans— including 6.5 million children—live in a low-income area more than a mile from a supermarket, also known as a food desert.
Youngstown, as well as several other surrounding communities, have been mapped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as "food deserts."
However, a portion of the report argues that the existence of a "food swamp" may play a more significant part in a community's obesity rate.
"Recent research, however, suggests that more important than supermarket access alone is the more holistic measure of the kind of food available in an area. Researchers have found a correlation between fast-food availability and fast-food consumption among low-income respondents. A 2017 study found that food swamps—communities where there is a high density of outlets selling high-calorie food, such as fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, compared with ones that sell healthy food—have a stronger association with obesity than communities with just a lack of supermarkets" the report explains.
The report makes several recommendations on policies that may decrease that rates of obesity in communities, such as establishing zoning laws that incentivize healthy food outlets to open stores in underserved neighborhoods and restrict fast-food and other outlets that sell primarily unhealthy food.
Also, TFAH reports that states and municipalities that have enacted so-called "soda taxes" have seen a decrease in the consumption of sugary beverages that might impact obesity.
"Philadelphia, the largest U.S. municipality to date with a beverage tax, enacted a 1.5-cent per-ounce tax on all sugary drinks in 2017. New research on the first year of the tax found that consumers in the city purchased fewer sugary drinks on average, and retailers stocked more bottled water and less soda," the report reads.
The full report and its recommendations can be read here: