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F as in Fat

US obesity rates plateau as morbid obesity increases 350% in 30 years

The latest data from the annual F as in Fat report has reported that obesity rates in the US have plateaued in nearly all the country’s states for the first time in 30 years. Nevertheless, morbid obesity rates have grown significantly in the last 30 years; in 1980 1.4% of people were morbidly obese, compared to 6.3% today - a rise of 350%.

The report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2013, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health, reports that 13 US states have obesity rates above 30%, with the highest rates found in the Midwest, South and among baby boomers.  Arkansas was the only state to report a rise in obesity rates

In forty-one states, obesity rates are 25% or more. Not one state in America has an obesity rate of 20% or less.

Compared to 1980, when obesity rates of 15% or more did not exist, health care authorities say the present prevalence is far too high, despite the recent encouraging news.

The rise of obesity rates 1980-2013

1980 - no state had an obesity rate of 15% or more

1991 - no state had an obesity rate of 20% or more

2000 - no state had an obesity rate of 25% or more

2007 - only Mississippi had an obesity rate above 30%

2013 - no state has an obesity rate of 20% or less

2013 - 41 states have obesity rates of at least 25%

Every state except one in 2005 saw obesity rates rise. However, in 2008 rates increased in 37 states, and then 28 states in 2010, and just 16 states in 2011. The authors of the report claim that there this is clear evidence that the obesity epidemic is losing steam.

"After decades of unrelenting bad news, we're finally seeing signs of progress. In addition to today's news about the steady rates for adults, we've seen childhood obesity rates declining in cities and states that were among the first to adopt a comprehensive approach to obesity prevention,” said Dr Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president and CEO. “But no one should believe the nation's work is done. We've learned a lot in the last decade about how to prevent obesity. Now it's time to take that knowledge to scale."

Louisiana was found to have the highest rates of obesity at 34.7%, followed by Mississippi at 34.6%. The slimmest state is Colorado at 20.5%.

Obesity rates vary according to age group, in Alabama and Louisiana obesity rates among baby boomers (aged 45 to 64) have reached 40%. In 41 states the obesity rates among baby boomers are at least 30%.

Among seniors (65+ years of age), only Louisiana recorded an obesity rate higher than 30%, whilst obesity rates among young adults (18 to 25) are less than 28% in every state.

Obesity rates for men and women have converged - men and women have virtually identical obesity rates today (35.8% and 35.5% respectively). Ten years ago there was a difference of 6 percentage points (women 33.4% - men 27.5%). Since 2000, male obesity rates have been rising faster.

Adult obesity rates, state by state

Louisiana - 34.7%

Mississippi - 34.6%

Arkansas - 34.5%

West Virginia - 33.8%

Alabama - 33%

Oklahoma - 32.2%

South Carolina - 31.6%

Indiana - 31.4%

Kentucky - 31.3%

Michigan and Tennessee - 31.1%

Iowa - 30.4%

Ohio - 30.1%

Kansas - 29.9%

North Dakota and Wisconsin - 29.7%

Missouri and North Carolina - 29.6%

Texas - 29.2%

Georgia and Pennsylvania - 29.1%

Nebraska - 28.6%

Maine - 28.4%

Illinois and South Dakota - 28.1%

Maryland - 27.6%

Virginia - 27.4%

New Hampshire and Oregon - 27.3%

New Mexico - 27.1%

Delaware - 26.9%

Idaho and Washington - 26.8%

Nevada - 26.2%

Arizona - 26%

Alaska and Minnesota and Rhode Island - 25.7%

Connecticut - 25.6%

Florida - 25.2%

California - 25%

New Jersey and Wyoming - 24.6%

Montana and Utah - 24.3%

Vermont - 23.7%

Hawaii and New York - 23.6%

Massachusetts - 22.9%

District of Columbia - 21.9%

Colorado - 20.5%

"While stable rates of adult obesity may signal prevention efforts are starting to yield some results, the rates remain extremely high,” said Dr Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health. “Even if the nation holds steady at the current rates, Baby Boomers - who are aging into obesity-related illnesses - and the rapidly rising numbers of extremely obese Americans are already translating into a cost crisis for the healthcare system and Medicare.”

Data from the report come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual telephone survey of more than 400,000 adults.