Someone who is considered to be obese has a BMI of 30.0 or higher. Obesity is a growing concern in the United States and around the world.
The United States ranks 12th in the world for obesity. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 36.9% of American adults age 20 and older were obese based on 2015-2016 data. 37.9% of men and 41.1% of women are considered to be obese in the United States. This is twice as many as three decades ago. Approximately 15% of children and teens are overweight; three times as many as there were in the 1980s.
Obesity is the result of several factors such as overeating, lack of physical activity, poor diet choices, genetics, metabolism, and culture. Americans are more likely to consume simple carbohydrates, convenient fast food and processed pre-packaged foods. These foods tend to be higher in calories, less filling, and less nutrient-dense, causing people to consume more calories than they need. This caloric surplus combined with a lack of physical activity and exercise causes weight gain over time.
Obesity can lead to increased health risks such as type 2 diabetes, nerve damage, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death behind tobacco use.
According to The State of Obesity, the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data shows that nine states now have obesity rates above 35%. Between 2017 and 2018, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, and Utah all saw increases in their obesity rates. Other states’ rates remained about the same.
The ten states with the lowest obesity rates are:
- Colorado (23%)
- District of Columbia (24.7%)
- Hawaii (24.9%)
- New Jersey (25.7%)
- Massachusetts (25.7%)
- California (25.8%)
- Montana (26.9%)
- Connecticut (27.4%)
- Vermont (27.5%)
- New York (27.6%)
Colorado’s low obesity rate can be attributed to its culture and lifestyle. Many residents enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking, and are generally conscious of eating whole, nutrient-dense foods, and their own wellbeing. West Virginia and Mississippi are currently tied as the most obese state at 39.5%. West Virginia has the highest rate of type 2 diabetes in the United States, and Mississippi has the lowest life expectancy of 74.7 years.