Advocacy group claims US getting fatter than ever

THE GUARDIAN , MIAMI, FLORIDA

Fri, Aug 26, 2005 - Page 7

Americans are getting fatter at a pace never seen before while government-led attempts to hold in bulging waistlines are doomed to failure, a report claimed on Wednesday.

More than 119 million people, 64.5 percent of the US population, are now considered overweight or obese, according to the Trust for Americans' Health, an independent advocacy group that says the nation has been let down by ineffective anti-obesity policies.

Experts are just as concerned at the escalating rate of the weight gain. Childhood obesity has doubled in 20 years and almost three-quarters of American adults could be overweight in less than three years' time.

"The numbers are pretty staggering," said Michael Earls, one of the report's authors. "The implications for the country are huge in terms of the financial cost and the toll on people's health."

Among the more significant findings of the report, based on figures from the US government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the rise in states that consider more than 20 percent of their population to be obese. In 1985 it was none; this year it is 40.

America's fattest state is Mississippi, where 29.5 percent of adults are obese, followed by Alabama (28.9 percent) and West Virginia (27.6 percent).

Eighteen million adults in the US have diabetes, and more than 9 million children are overweight or obese, twice as many as in 1980.

Efforts to tackle the "twin epidemic" of obesity and diabetes have failed miserably, the trust's executive director, Shelley Hearne, said.

"We are in a state of policy paralysis in regards to obesity. We have a crisis of poor nutrition and physical inactivity and it's time we dealt with it," she said.

The group acknowledges that some improvements have been made, with many schools replacing potato chips and soft drinks in vending machines with healthier options such as yogurts and low-fat snacks.