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Obesity survey finds expansion nationwide

For the third year in a row, Mississippi is the fattest state in the country and Colorado the leanest, but the obesity rate is increasing in all states, according to a report released Monday.

Mississippi this year became the first state to have more than 30 percent of its residents classified as obese, but 47 states are above 20 percent. Just 15 years ago, no state was above 15 percent, according to officials from the Trust for America’s Health, which prepared the report using federal statistics obtained through telephone interviews.

For the first time, the annual report included state-by-state figures on childhood obesity, showing that Washington, D.C., was first with 22.8 percent of its children overweight and Utah was last with 8.5 percent.

The report is “a devastating indictment,” said Jim Marks, a senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which sponsored the study. The report categorized subjects using body mass index, or BMI, which is a ratio of weight and height. It defined overweight as having a BMI between 25 and 30, and obese as a BMI over 30. An individual who is 6 feet tall and weighs 230 pounds, for example, has a BMI of 31.

The incidence of obesity increased in 31 states in 2006 and no state experienced a decrease, said Jeff Levi, executive director of the trust.

Ten of the 15 states with the highest rates of obesity among adults were in the South, as were eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of overweight youth.

Some experts think the estimates in the report are conservative because people are underreporting their weight in surveys. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last year – based on actually weighing subjects – that found a nationwide obesity rate of 32 percent, higher than that for any state in the new rankings.


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