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Michigan obesity rates ranked 10th in country

July 7, 2010

Michigan has the 10th highest adult obesity rate and the 41st highest childhood obesity rate among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to a national study.

The study, the “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010,” was released last week by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The seventh annual study utilized a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to calculate individuals’ body mass index, or BMI, based on a ratio of height to weight, said Serena Vinter, a senior research associate with Trust for America’s Health. The study judged individuals with a calculated BMI of 30 or higher as obese, and then ranked the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

In Michigan, 29.4 percent of adults are considered obese. Mississippi had the highest overall obesity rate with 33.8 percent, and Colorado had the lowest obesity rate with 19.1 percent. Michigan held the highest obesity rates among non-southern states, but unlike more than half of the states, Michigan’s obesity rate did not significantly increase in the past year, the survey found.

Obesity has several causes and can create numerous health concerns, said James Trosko, an MSU professor of pediatrics and human development.

“Obesity has many, many contributing factors, not the least of which happen to be individual genetic backgrounds, dietary factors, exercise or the lack of exercise (and) possibly even what I would call cultural factors,” Trosko said. “There are many diseases that are also associated with being obese, not the least of which would be hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer (and) many times there’s even chronic inflammation.”

In addition to factors such as genetics and nutritional habits, obesity rates are strongly connected to economic conditions, Trosko said.

“When people don’t have funds for a proper diet, what they tend to do is eat the wrong foods, which are the cheapest foods,” Trosko said.

Obesity rates for children ages 10-17 from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health also were included in the report. Michigan came in 41st with a 12.4 percent childhood obesity rate.

Although the adult-to-child obesity percentage varies frequently, the wide difference between Michigan’s adult and childhood obesity rates are unusual, Vinter said.

“We don’t see, necessarily, a perfect correlation among the heaviest state for adults is the heaviest state for kids,” Vinter said. “Michigan is kind of an anomaly.”

Obesity in Michigan has been a problem for many years, and the Michigan Department of Community Health has many programs in place to counter it, said Velma Theisen, manager of the heart disease and stroke prevention unit at the Michigan Department of Community Health. Some programs include providing funding to local agencies to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables, working with schools to create healthy lunch options and supporting and encouraging breast feeding, Theisen said.

“We’ve got a broad spectrum of initiatives,” Theisen said. “We know that it is also correlated with lower income, with less education, so it also basically is a part of a large number of factors that contribute to obesity. It is a challenge that is complicated to actually make some improvement.”

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