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America’s 20 fattest cities are all in the South

Little Rock, Arkansas, has topped the list of America’s Fattest Cities that are almost all located in the South, according to a new report.

In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, WalletHub ranked 100 US cities from fittest to fattest based on everything from percentage of obese children to access to healthy foods.

The Arkansas capital took the title of fattest city, and on the other end of the spectrum Portland, Oregon, was ranked the healthiest city.

More than one-third of Americans have obesity and if rates continue to grow at their current pace, that number will be around 50 percent in the next decade.

Obesity racks up nearly $200 billion annually in medical costs for conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, which are some of the leading preventable causes of death.

America is home to 13 percent of the world’s obese adults despite accounting for only five percent of its population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

The average American woman today weighs about 168 pounds, or roughly the same as an average man in 1960. 

WalletHub evaluated 100 of the most populated metro areas in the US on three dimensions: Obesity and Overweight, Health Consequences and Food and Fitness.

Those dimensions were broken down into 18 metrics such as ‘Share of Obese Adults’, defined as having a body mass index over 30.0, ‘Share of Adults with Low Fruit and Vegetable Consumption’ and ‘Access to Health Food’.

The researchers then calculated each city’s weighted average across all 18 metrics to determine the final rankings.

The cities fall on a scale from one to 100, with 100 being the ‘fattest’ score possible.

Arkansas’s Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway metro area came in at number one with a score of 81.3, followed closely by Shreveport-Bossier City in Louisiana with a score of 80.72.

Almost all of the top 20 fattest cities were located in the South.

Aside from higher proportions of overweight and obese adults, the cities on the upper end of the spectrum have higher rates of high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Residents of these cities are less likely to exercise, eat healthy or have access to healthy food.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area in Oregon and Washington took the bottom, least-fat spot with a score of 58.63, followed by Honolulu, Hawaii at 58.65 and Salt Lake City, Utah, at 58.92.

A large number of the cities on the healthier end of the list are located in western states such as California and Utah.

These healthier cities are more friendly to an active lifestyle, have more parks and recreational facilities and better access to healthy foods. 

10 fattest cities 

  1. Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Arkansas
  2. Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana
  3. McAllen-Edinburgh-Mission, Texas
  4. Memphis, Tennessee and Mississippi
  5. Mobile, Alabama
  6. Knoxville, Tennessee
  7. Jackson, Mississippi
  8. Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama
  9. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  10. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky 



10 fittest cities

  1. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon and Washington
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii
  3. Salt Lake City, Utah
  4. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington
  5. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  6. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts and New Hampshire
  7. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado
  8. Minneapolis-St Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota and Wisconsin
  9. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
  10. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah

More than 20 percent of adults are obese in every state in America, according to 2017 CDC data.

The five most obese states are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia, each with more than 35 percent of adults with obesity.

Twenty other states have an obesity rate between 30 and 35 percent. 

An estimated 160 million of the world’s 750 million obese people live in the US.  

Globally, obesity and diabetes cause around 800,000 cancers a year, with women being nearly twice as likely to suffer as men, according to a 2017 study of 175 countries. 

Nearly six percent of cancer cases worldwide were a result of being overweight, having diabetes or both in 2012.

If obesity and type 2 diabetes rates continue to rise, the two conditions could be responsible for up to 30 percent of cancers around the world in 2035, researchers predict. 

The rankings were based on scores from three categories: Obesity and Overweight, Health Consequences and Food and Fitness. Those categories were broken down into 18 metrics