American Obesity Continues to Climb

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American Obesity Continues to Climb

Adult obesity rates did not decrease in a single state over the past year, but rather increased in 23 states. Also, the percentage of obese and overweight children is now at or above 30 percent in 30 states.

These statistics come from the sixth annual “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2009” report, released July 1 by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The report contains rankings of state obesity rates, reviews federal and state government policies aimed at reducing or preventing obesity, and provides recommendations for addressing obesity within health reform.

The report finds that adult obesity rates now surpass 25 percent in 31 states and exceed 20 percent in 49 states and Washington, D.C. In 1991, no state had an adult obesity rate above 20 percent. In 1980, the national average for adult obesity was only 15 percent. Today, two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight. Sixteen states experienced an increase in the rate of adult obesity for the second year in a row, and 11 states experienced an increase for the third straight year when compared with past reports.

According to the report, Mississippi had the highest rate of adult obesity, at 32.5 percent, making it the fifth year in a row that the state has topped the list. Four states now have adult obesity rates above 30 percent, including Mississippi, West Virginia (31.2 percent), Alabama (31.1 percent) and Tennessee (30.2 percent). Colorado continued to have the lowest percentage of obese adults, at 18.9 percent.

Mississippi also had the highest rate of obese and overweight children (ages 10 to 17), at 44.4 percent. Minnesota and Utah had the lowest rate of obese and overweight children, at 23.1 percent. The report also notes that childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1980.

Elizabeth Pivonka, a registered dietitian and CEO of produce for Wilmington, Del.-based Better Health Foundation (PBH), the nonprofit entity behind the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters® national public health initiative, says that most U.S. adults don’t get the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables each day. “Eating more fruits and vegetables in place of options that are higher in fat and calories is an important step in losing weight and keeping it off.

“Don’t feel like you need to give your diet a complete overhaul right away,” Pivonka continues. “Sometimes, big changes are difficult to stick to. If you can only make one diet change right now, your best option is to add just one extra serving of fruit or vegetables each day. You’ll find you won’t need to eat as much of other foods when you do.

“Fruits and vegetables play important roles in the process of weight loss and weight maintenance,” says Pivonka. “Not only because they are low in calories but also because they provide a wide range of valuable nutrients like vitamins and potassium. They are also high in fiber and water, so eating them will keep you feeling full longer.”

Pivonka adds that fruits and vegetables are loaded with healthy fiber, and fiber-rich diets have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects, including a decreased risk of coronary heart disease.

“Fruits and vegetables are the cheapest form of health insurance you can buy, since eating them may help reduce the risk of obesity and many diseases,” adds Pivonka. “Everyone can benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables, so fill at least half of your plate with them at every meal.

“Fruits and vegetables provide the unrivaled combination of great taste, nutrition, abundant variety and multiple product forms. There is no need to eat the same thing day after day when there are so many delicious fruits and veggies from which to choose. Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is easy when you remember that all product forms count -- fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice.”

To read the full “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2009” report, including state-by-state rankings of both adult obesity, and obese and overweight children ages 10 to 17, go to TFAH’s Web site at or RWJF’s Web site at

- Nielsen Business Media