As a whole, the US is fat, but Mississippi was the most overweight state in the nation in 2018, according to a new report.
At the other end of the spectrum, Utah and Colorado scored the lowest on the obesity scale in WalletHub’s new analysis.
By its three measures – prevalence of obesity and people who are overweight, related health problems and the foods and fitness routines of residents – states in the South consistently ranked as the ones where weight was the biggest problem.
The report authors say their findings underscore the locations where the US most needs to redouble its efforts to combat the burden of obesity and, in turn, risks for chronic health problems like heart disease and type II diabetes.
With Mississippi leading the pack, WalletHub research found that states in the South of the US are the ‘fattest,’ (darker teal) according to measures of obesity prevalence, poor nutrition, inactivity and health problems linked to being overweight and obesity
Across the US, a staggering seven out of 10 Americans is overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
And the nation’s high rates of obesity fuel many of the top causes of death.
The CDC doesn’t list obesity itself as a cause of death, but many experts have suggested that, given its implications for disease like diabetes and heart disease – the latter of which is the single most deadly condition for Americans – it should be one.
Not only that, but Dr Darius Mozaffarian, dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science, told the New York Times that he believes poor diet and nutrition are the leading cause of death.
Previous research has suggested that 1,000 every day in the US are directly caused by Americans propensity o eat far too much processed meat and salt and not enough nuts, seeds and fish with fatty acids, like salmon.
According to the new report, health care expenditures on obesity costs the US Nearly $200 billion a year.
But the proportion of that burden varies from state to state.
By looking at factors like the percent of adults and children who are obese or overweight, of those who are sedentary, of those with high cholesterol and blood pressure, those with type II diabetes and those with unhealthy diets, WalletHub ranked states according to how big a problem excess BMIs are in each.
The 10 best and worst states were:
- West Virginia
- District of Columbia
Adults were most likely to be overweight in Nevada, Delaware, New Hampshire, Texas or New Mexico.
But they were more likely to be obese – with a body mass index (BMI) of or exceeding 30 – in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama or Iowa.
Montana, California, Hawaii, Washington, DC and Colorado, however had the lowest proportion of obese adults.
The American diet is notoriously lacking in nutrition and is, instead, high in processed foods, saturated fats, sugars and red meat.
It’s not just what Americans do eat, but what we don’t eat that puts us at risk for being overweight, obese and generally sick.
Nutritionists may disagree on what specific diets or approaches to eating are best and worse, but it’s pretty widely accepted that healthy dose of fruits and vegetables is key to getting the nutrients we need and fighting inflammation.
But in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and West Virginia, a high proportion of American adults eats less than one serving of fruits and vegetables a day.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the list of the states with the highest prevalence of type II diabetes is strikingly similar: West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.
And those same five usual suspects had the highest rates of high blood pressure.
The other American tendency that drives up obesity rates. Americans don’t move much.
Somewhere between 25 and 35 percent of Americans are inactive – working jobs where they sit all day, going home and mostly sitting and participating in no regular physical activity.
Rates of inactivity in Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma are well above the national average.
Notably, many of the states that scored most poorly and ranked as ‘fattest’ are also states with high rates of poverty, a key risk factor for obesity.
Many Americans believe healthy foods to be more expensive than high sugar, fatty, processed ones, like Mississippi’s favorite comfort food, mud pie, or West Virginia’s, pizza rolls.
But, ‘it’s a myth that you have to spend a lot of money to eat well,’ said Dr Molly Bray, a nutritionist at the University of Texas at Austin.
‘For one, preparing things to eat at home raises the likelihood that the food will be of better quality, with less fat and sodium, and also less expensive.’
She advises cheap proteins like eggs, lentils, beans, rice and whole chicken. For vegetables, carrots and potatoes are inexpensive and nutritious.
But Dr Bray also acknowledges that food producers pad their products with empty calories – a practice that the US government could, but doesn’t, stem.
‘The government should require that food companies prioritize health over profit,’ she said.
‘Filling foods with additives and preservatives extends shelf life and increases profit margins but does little to promote health.
‘More regulation in the area of nutrient supplements would help to eliminate quack products promoted by celebrity doctors that claim to promote weight loss to a vulnerable and often desperate audience.
‘Prevention is the key to reducing the cost of health care, and that should start in school.’