Thu, Jul 02, 2009 - Page 7 News List

US is losing the battle of the bulge, new report says


The US is losing its battle against bulging waistlines, with two-thirds of Americans now overweight or obese, an annual report said yesterday.

In the past year, nearly half of the 50 US states saw obesity rates rise and no state saw a fall in the number of people who were obese, according to the sixth annual F as in Fat report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index — calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by his or her height squared in meters — greater than 30.

“The country will never be able to contain rates of chronic diseases and health care costs until we find ways to keep Americans healthier,” the report says, pinning more than a quarter of healthcare costs in the US on problems linked to obesity.

The report said healthcare costs attributable to Americans’ expanding girths were projected to more than double every decade, possibly reaching US$956 billion a year by 2030.

That would mean obesity would account for US$1 in US$6 spent on healthcare.

The report also cited other research, which found that obese workers had more than 10 times the number of lost workdays than normal-weight workers — nearly 184 lost workdays per 100 full-time obese employees over a one-year period, versus 14 lost workdays per 100 full-time normal-weight employees.

The southern state of Mississippi held onto the dubious distinction of being the fattest state for the fifth year in a row, with nearly one in three adults and a staggering 44 percent of children aged between 10 and 17 suffering from obesity, the report showed.

“Mississippi also continues to have the highest rate of physical inactivity and hypertension, and has the second highest rate of diabetes,” the report said.

Diabetes alone accounts for 11 percent of all US healthcare costs, the report said.

Obesity rates in 31 states exceeded 25 percent and only in the state of Colorado was the percentage of adults who are obese lower than 20 percent.

But even in Colorado, known as the Rocky Mountain state and prized for its outdoor lifestyle, obesity crept up from 18.4 percent to 18.7 percent.

In 1980, the average of obese adults was 15 percent.

The report blames the upward trend on a number of factors, including the fact that Americans consume an average of 300 more calories per day than they did 25 years ago, eat less nutritious foods and jump into the car even for trips of less than 1.6km.

Meanwhile, the percentage of obese and overweight children aged between 10 and 17 was at or above 30 percent in 30 states, the report said. In no state was childhood obesity lower than 20 percent.

The worrying trend among children is blamed on poor diet, unsafe or poorly maintained outdoor spaces, and too much time spent in front of the television, computer or games console — activities that also eat into the time that kids could be active.

Obese children are at higher risk of having heart disease, high cholesterol and type-2 diabetes, and are more likely to become obese adults, who are at risk from the very same health problems.

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